Suspected drug overdoses have swelled in the months since the mid-March outbreak of the coronavirus in the United States, according to a report.
State governments have enacted heavy-handed restrictions to slow the spread of the virus, but in many cases have contributed to increased social isolation and blocked people from services and escapes that have buoyed mental and emotional health.
The impact of the lockdowns and anxiety of the pandemic seems to be showing up in the number of overdoses, both fatal and nonfatal, across the country. Since March, each month has measured a significant increase in suspected overdoses over a year ago, and each month during which the crisis continues, the relative increase in overdoses grows larger, according to The Washington Post.
“Suspected overdoses nationally — not all of them fatal — jumped 18 percent in March compared with last year, 29 percent in April and 42 percent in May, according to the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program, a federal initiative that collects data from ambulance teams, hospitals and police. In some jurisdictions, such as Milwaukee County, dispatch calls for overdoses have increased more than 50 percent,” the Post reports.
The Post report cites increased social isolation, unemployment, and, curiously, disruption in normal supply lines of illegal drugs, which has allegedly forced many to seek new dealers or try unfamiliar substances.
Experts have predicted that the lockdowns, which shut down social institutions such as churches and forced tens of millions of Americans into unemployment, could result in thousands of additional deaths on top of those from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. In early May, just weeks into the pandemic in the U.S., the health group Well Being Trust estimated that 75,000 people would die from so-called “deaths of despair” from alcohol, drug use, suicide, and other factors.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a statement on Monday calling for schools to reopen in the fall unless extreme scenarios prevent them from doing so. The group of childcare experts said that keeping children out of schools threatened their physical and mental well-being much more than the virus itself.
“The AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school. The importance of inperson learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020,” the AAP said.
“Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation. This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality,” the AAP added.
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