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2020 has been an unprecedented year for many reasons. Along with world-wide shutdowns, the fast-spreading virus has also led to a variety of unforeseen consequences, one of which is the number of drug overdoses.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently announced that the 12 months preceding and including May 2020 had the highest number of drug overdoses on record for a 12-month period with more than 81,000 deaths. While drug overdoses were on the rise in 2019, not surprisingly the biggest numbers come during the months when the coronavirus pandemic was in full effect. Opioids also seem to be the driving force behind these overdoses, with the CDC reporting that the number of overdose deaths from these drugs increased by 38% during this time, compared to the 12-month period leading up to June of 2019.

Many speculate that this increase is due in part to the impact that the virus has had on various areas of people’s lives, including their finances, mental health, and social life.

As people struggle to cope, they may turn to drugs for help or to numb the pain. Especially as helpful community resources are put on hold or have become less accessible during the pandemic, the drug use of people in need may have increased in response. Financial stress, poor mental health, and lack of social support can also act as triggers for people who are in recovery and lead to relapse.

Unfortunately, the full effects of the coronavirus pandemic on drug overdose deaths have yet to be reported. The second half of 2020 may show numbers even worse as the virus continues to wreak havoc on people’s lives. Even with the vaccine starting to be distributed, the lingering effects of the coronavirus may have a lasting impact on drug and alcohol use as the economy and people’s mental health still need time to recover.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with drug use, get help. Waiting to act or doing nothing could lead to devastating results.

Dr. David Henderson is a board-certified psychiatrist, author, speaker and Medical Director at Vertava Health of Texas, formerly The Treehouse.

Help can be reached at VertavaHealth.com or the 24-hour helpline at (888) 951-1939.

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