It could be related to COVID-19 restrictions.
Annapolis, Md (KM) The Maryland Department of Health is reporting 561 opioid-related deaths during the first quarter of 2020. That’s a 2.6% increase compared to the same period in 2019. In Frederick County, there were 13 opioid-related deaths from January through March, 2020, which is a decrease from 20 in 2019.
Steve Schuh, the Executive Director of Maryland’s Opioid Operational Command Center, says it’s uncertain why the state numbers went up, but it could have something to do with the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are concerned that the upheaval resulting from COVID-19 has caused people to become disconnected from their support systems, disconnected from the AA meetings, their NA meetings,” he says.
AA is Alcoholics Anonymous’ NA is Narcotics Anonymous.
And, Schuh says, the situation could get worse as the economy takes a tumble due to the coronavirus. “We’re concerned also this may just be the beginning because we probably have not yet sen e the full impact of the despair of job loss, the ongoing disconnectedness from support systems, and what that will do to people’s behavior and ultimately to fatalities,”: he syas.
Right now, Schuh says, people such as clinicians, advocacy groups, parents and other citizens need to double down on their efforts to curb this problem, and make sure those having addictions get the treatment they need. “We will be dealing with this crisis for some years to come, and we just need to take this opportunity right now to redouble our efforts, and continue to build awareness,to expand treatment options, to educate young people in schools, and to make sure Naloxone is available in every community,” he says.
Naloxone, sometimes called Nar Can, is administered by first responders to addicts to reverse the affects of an overdose.
Schuh says an action plan has been developed to work on reducing opioid addictions and deaths. “We intend to expand the availability of Naloxone which saves people from what would overwise be fatal overdoses. We’re increasing our outreach to isolated individuals to help connect them to treatment,” he says.
And then there’s the criminal justice aspect.. “We’re especially working with individuals who, in the criminal justice system either in jail, on release on on probation, who are particularly vulnerable to relapse,” says Schuh.
Anyone who is dealing with addictions and needs treatment, or who knows someone with an addiction, can start the process of getting help by dialing 211, and pressing the number 1. This call can be made from anywhere in Maryland.
By Kevin McManus