Overdose Deaths Aren’t Slowing Down

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Overdose Deaths Are Up During the COVID-19 Pandemic 

Pandemic: Meet the drug epidemic.

U.S. drug overdose deaths have gone up by 20% over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in more than 83,000 deaths in 2020.

Overdose deaths — particularly from opioids — were already on the rise prior to the arrival of the coronavirus, but the pandemic hasn’t slowed their deadly march.

Those numbers are up in Colorado, too. In the early months of the pandemic lockdowns, from January to April 2020, the state saw a 35% increase against the same period a year earlier.

Experts believe COVID’s interruptions to day-to-day life have hit people struggling with substance use disorders all the harder. 

The fear, uncertainty, and disruptions have brought on a lot of stress. That can cause body aches, headaches, rashes, and stomach pain. It can worsen existing health problems, both chronic and mental. It also can lead to more tobacco, alcohol, and drug use.

Some people say the spread of fentanyl, a super-potent synthetic opioid, is at least part to blame; fentanyl overdoses skyrocketed from 2018 to 2019.

Preventing Overdoses

The Centers for Disease Control has suggested several things to prevent overdoses and improve outcomes. They include:

  • Making naloxone (which can reverse an opioid overdose) more readily available
  • Educating more people about preventing overdoses (and the dangers of fentanyl)
  • Informing the public about substance use disorder treatments
  • Increasing access to addiction treatment options
  • Staging interventions earlier for at-risk individuals
  • Improving methods of detecting overdose outbreaks

Drug overdoses are the top cause of injury-related deaths. The majority are linked to opioids. Taken in excess, opioids can slow and even stop breathing. 

Pinpoint pupils, losing consciousness, slowed or stopped breathing, pale or clammy skin, gurgling sounds, a slowed pulse, and being unresponsive are some of the signs of a potential opioid overdose. If someone exhibits those signs, seek help immediately.


npr.org – Drug Overdose Deaths Surge Among Black Americans During Pandemic

coloradohealthinstitute.org – Colorado’s 2019 Overdose Data Already Looked Bad, 2020 Could Be Worse

cdc.gov – Coping with Stress

blackhealthmatters.com – Death Toll Rising From Tainted Cocaine

cdc.gov – Overdose Deaths Accelerating During COVID-19

sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Opioid Overdose

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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