For the last 20 years or so, the U.S. has seen a significant increase in opioid and drug overdoses overall.
And while there was a slight leveling before the pandemic, “we’ve seen huge increases since COVID-19,” said Margaret Lowenstein, an LDI Senior Fellow, addiction medicine physician, and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine. Overdose deaths topped 100,000 annually, setting painful records.
“Much of this is due to the rising prevalence of illicitly manufactured fentanyl, which is potent and deadly,” Lowenstein said. “We’re also seeing more stimulant-related overdoses involving drugs such as methamphetamines and cocaine.”
Some of that increase might involve people using multiple substances or drugs contaminated with fentanyl.
“We also are seeing pressed pills that contain fentanyl, [also known as] counterfeit opioids that are marketed as Percocet or oxycodone,” Lowenstein said.
Still another alarming development is the rising overdose rates in communities of color [Black and Hispanic], both in Philly and nationally. “Some of the increases are probably pandemic-related,” she said. “We’ve had social isolation, stress, economic instability, and physical illness, and we’ve also seen reduced access to services, treatment, and harm reduction.”
But a lot of marginalized people who lack access to technology lost touch with their care or returned to use during the pandemic. “It’s been a rough couple of decades, but these last couple of years have been particularly hard,” she added.
For more on possible solutions, read on.