Don’t forget about opioids

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Remember the opioid epidemic?

Before the novel coronavirus pandemic grabbed the spotlight, opioid addiction was America’s No. 1 health problem.

For five years or more, headlines in nearly every newspaper in the country were focused on the effects of abuse, especially overdose deaths and infants born addicted to the drugs. Our region is among the communities particularly stricken by the abuse of prescription pain relievers, heroin and synthetic opioids.

The domino effects from the crisis included broken families, an overwhelmed medical system, financial woes for states and an inadequate workforce.

Did the problem magically disappear when COVID-19 appeared? No, we just stopped focusing on it as a nation. Some reports indicate the problem has been worsened by the pandemic’s fallout, mainly from joblessness, isolation and despair.

The American Medical Association recently issued a statement that it was greatly concerned by an increasing number of reports suggesting increases in opioid- and other drug-related mortality — particularly from illicitly manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analogs.

While data is not yet available for the period after COVID-19 took hold in the U.S. in the spring, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more 19,400 people died from drug overdoses in the year’s first quarter, nearly 3,000 more than in the same period in 2019.

Things were already on the wrong track in the months before COVID-19’s arrival, reversing what had been a positive trend. U.S. drug overdose deaths increased 4.6 percent in 2019 after a 4.1 percent decline between 2017 and 2018.

Thankfully, though, the opioid plague is not off everyone’s mind.

Many agencies and non-profits across the country are working on housing for people recovering from opioid addiction, along with sober-living facilities.

Experts say new sober-living facilities will make the transition easier for people who are attempting to recover from opioid addiction. Unstable housing is one factor that can lead to a relapse.

Given the state of the American psyche amid the isolation of 2020, we can’t help but believe such projects are more important than ever.

So is awareness. For information about how you can help a friend or family member — or yourself — overcome the struggles of addiction, visit the CDC’s page at www.cdc.gov/rxawareness/.

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