The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new data indicating fatal drug overdoses accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the data, approximately 81,230 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in a 12-month period, ending in May 2020, the largest number of drug overdoses for a 12-month period ever recorded.
Drug overdose deaths during this time increased more than 20% in 25 states and the District of Columbia, according to the data.
The CDC said overdoses are driven by synthetic opioid use such as substances like fentanyl.
The CDC is now taking measures to address drug abuse.
“These newly released provisional fatal overdose data, coupled with the known disruption to public health, healthcare, and social services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and related mitigation measures, highlight the need for essential services to remain accessible for those most at risk of overdose and the need to expand prevention and response activities,” The CDC reports.
The CDC offered the following recommendations for health care providers:
-Increase awareness about the risk of using drugs when alone and emphasize the need for risk reduction strategies among people who use drugs, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.
-Prescribe naloxone to patients with a prior history of overdose, opioid use disorder and/or those who use illicit opioids and other drugs that might be combined with illicitly manufactured fentanyl.
-Ensuring naloxone is available and that people who use drugs and their loved ones know how to administer it.
-Offer overdose prevention education and take-home naloxone at inpatient and outpatient treatment programs, primary care settings, retail pharmacies, counseling and support groups and other community-based settings where these services do not exist.
-Advise patients that, depending on the potency of illicitly manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, as well as prolonged effects of opioids in some cases, multiple doses of naloxone may be needed for a single overdose event.
-Provide psychosocial treatment for patients who use cocaine and methamphetamine (eg, contingency management either by itself or in tandem with community reinforcement or cognitive-behavioral therapy).
The CDC reminds those to call 911 in case of an immediate emergency. The disaster hotline, 1-800-985-5990, is a trusted resource as well.