Opioid addiction in the USA is a real epidemic, especially in the Black communities. It was the reason for about 500 000 deaths in the last two decades. But things went even worse after COVID-19 appeared. The number of victims increased drastically.
In this article, we’ll look at the main reasons for it and the possible measures that could be taken to change the situation for the better.
An alarming study
A new CDC study clearly shows the scale of this disaster. In 2020 the rate of overdoses increased by 30% in comparison to the previous year. However, the numbers vary in different social, ethnic, and racial groups. For instance, the percentage of opioid-related deaths in the Black communities was 44%, which is one of the highest rates. Among the young Black Americans, the increase was twice as high — a whopping 86%. For the first time since the early 1990s, they had a bigger number than many other groups.
The study shows that opioid death rates are greatly influenced by income inequality. The more it is, the higher the percentage. The other reason is the spread of fentanyl — the most lethal one of all opioids. Recently, huge amounts of it started to be imported into the US from other countries. Also, since many clinics were closed because of the pandemic, the number of opioid medical prescriptions fell significantly. So, many patients who depended on opioids had no other choice than to turn to their illegal analogs.
What can be done?
Creating resources to help addicted people is great, but unfortunately, it’s not enough. The study shows that treatment facilities don’t solve the problem — in the areas where they’re available, people still die from an overdose. The truly necessary option is a massive public health campaign aimed at the opioid problem. The harm caused by these drugs should be explained to as many people as possible. Also, this issue needs to be destigmatized so that addiction sufferers won’t be ashamed to seek treatment.
Not so long ago, the US government released a new anti-drug strategy that requires tightening the control of fentanyl sales on the streets. But attention also should be paid to patients who need opioids to ease their pain. They shouldn’t get devoid of drugs — otherwise, they’ll have to suffer terribly. The best solution would be to simplify the prescription procedure, reopen the clinics (at least partially) and probably even make prescriptions available online.