Unfortunately, before the pandemic, drug use had already burned a path across the country-as we all know. In 2018, the number of people with an SUD related to illegal drugs or alcohol topped 20 million. Of those, 2 millionwere addicted to opioids.

Factors that usually fuel substance use are heightened by the pandemic, experts say. For one, research shows that drug use often increases during economic downturns. Stress is also a common trigger for those at risk of relapse Unfortunately, during the pandemic, physicians in the ED, have seen a 1,000% increase in overdose cases. The other risk that happens is that people increasingly have been overdosing alone, with no one around to call 911 or administer the opioid-overdose antidote naloxone-due to isolation.

There has been a small silver lining in this situation…

In regions hit hard by COVID-19 outbreaks, providers quickly moved to provide nearly all care remotely. The shift would not have been possible, they say, without the loosening of federal telemedicine rules and payment changes from Medicare and Medicaid. For many patients, the shift online has been a huge help, plus reduced stigma but unfortunately some patients do not have the technologies at home.

Future Directions

Given all the rapid changes, SUD experts are trying to assess what theyve seen so far — and prepare for the future.

Research teams are working to gather more in-depth information on the pandemics impact. Researchers from the University of Floridas schools of medicine and public health are spearheading a nationwide program (https://ufhealth.org/news/2020/university-florida-namedcoordinating-center-national-drug-abuse-surveillance-system) , They plan to interview sources as first responders and funeral directors about drug use trends and related deaths.

Elsewhere, researchers are looking at such issues as the effects of recent treatment changes and pandemic-related shifts in drug markets.


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