Pandemic Inside a Pandemic: Opioid Abuse in America

You’ve probably seen or heard headlines the past few weeks that opioid abuse and overdoses have exploded over the course of quarantine. The stories seem to echo across the country. In Illinois’ Cook Country, home to the city of Chicago, overdoses are on track to double from last year. In Wisconsin, health officials are reporting overdoses have jumped 117% since the pandemic started.

Andrea Palm the Secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services says financial pressures and isolation can exacerbate behavioral and substance abuse problems.

Not all researchers and experts agree that quarantine is the sole cause. According to the Chicago Tribune, “Kathie Kane-Willis, a drug policy researcher at the Chicago Urban League, said emergency response data showed that overdoses started to rise sharply in November, long before the pandemic began.”

She says the cause is a rise in increasingly dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl. She does agree that the pandemic has not helped. Along with the additional stress, it’s limited the availability of treatment and distribution naloxone, a drug that reverses overdoses.

Well herein lies the rub. In July, NPR published a story titled “Doctors And Dentists Still Flooding U.S. With Opioid Prescriptions”. 

Dr. Jonathan Chen, a doctor and researcher at Stanford University Medical Center told NPR that patients are receiving about twice the amount of narcotics that would be considered normal. “We’re 5% of the world’s population, but we consume 80% of the world’s prescription opioids.”

Researchers are pointing at doctors as enablers of the problem – using narcotics as a cure-all for chronic pain and as a quick fix for issues that should be treated with a healthier lifestyle: things like physical therapy, nutrition, and exercise. 

Also a problem? Dentists. Just in case you needed another reason to floss.

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By Ben Garves

Ben Garves is a digital product expert, author, entertainer, and activist. His portfolio of thought leadership in digital marketing and web experiences has included major clients like Microsoft, Google, Twitter, eBay, Facebook, and Bloomberg. He’s also a freelance health and fitness journalist with over 400 stories written since 2018, a podcaster with 200 episodes to his name, and runs a YouTube channel with over 100 fitness and activism-oriented videos and live streams. Ben has founded the Fitness is for Everyone™ initiative to raise awareness about social injustice in both racial inequality and socioeconomic disparity in access to quality fitness and nutrition options around the globe.

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