How Coronavirus Pandemic May Be Increasing Drug Overdoses and Suicide

Millions of Americans across the country have been forced inside due to the coronavirus pandemic. While this might limit the spread of the infection and help public health officials manage the disease, it might actually be doing more harm than good for those suffering from loneliness, depression or other mental health issues.

Suicide has been on the rise in the United States over the past several years, and the despair that people might feel from the lockdowns, pandemic stress, and economic and financial woes have resulted in an increased number of people from all walks of life committing suicide.

In a notable example, Steve Bing, a Hollywood financier and heir to a real estate empire, jumped to his death from the 27th floor of his luxury apartment building in Century City, California. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Bing had been “suffering from depression, serious drug use, family rifts and rumored money pressures.” The additional stress, isolation and the unknown of a growing pandemic strongly contributed to his untimely death.

A coroner in Doughtery County, Georgia, which has a population that rests just a little under 100,000, reports that this year alone he’s already seen 11 or 12 suicides, which is what the county usually averages for an entire year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Robert Redfield said in a Buck Institute seminar, “There has been another cost that we’ve seen, particularly in high schools. We’re seeing, sadly, far greater suicides now than we are deaths from COVID. We’re seeing far greater deaths from drug overdose that are above excess that we had as background than we are seeing the deaths from COVID.”

Due to the investigation that occurs after a suicide, an exact number of suicides due to COVID will likely remain unknown until the pandemic ends.

Physicians and emergency room personnel are also concerned about the number of drug overdoses.

The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) reports that “anxiety, grief, isolation, financial worries, changes at home and work, and an ongoing sense of uncertainty can all threaten people with a substance use disorder (SUD) as well as those at risk of developing one.”

In the recent analysis of 500,000 urine tests, authorities have already detected a 32% increase in fentanyl use, 20% for methamphetamines and 10% for cocaine from mid-March through May.

Reports also indicate that there has been an 18% increase in the number of drug overdoses. Some of these deaths are likely the result of the increased constraints put on various police departments due to defunding efforts or managing responses to large-scale protests, which results in fewer officers available to respond quickly to overdose calls.

“At first, some of our patients were resilient and resourceful in staying drug-free,” Daniel Buccino, clinical manager of the Johns Hopkins Broadway Center for Addiction, said. “As time went on, it started getting harder for them, and I’ve been seeing drug use going up. We’re seeing more overdose cases going straight to the morgue rather than to the emergency department.”

There are additional concerns that as illicit drug supply lines are compromised by the pandemic, dealers and suppliers may cut the drugs with unsafe chemicals or other products, further endangering those struggling with addiction.

Not only are people turning to illegal drugs for comfort, but legal ones as well. Reports show that there has been a 25% increase in alcohol sales and a notable rise in the number of cigarette purchases as well.

These reports are a great reminder that while we might all be stuck at home, it’s more important than ever to reach out to those family members or friends who may be living alone or struggling with depression.

Are you or a family member suffering from feelings of loneliness or depression? Focus on the Family can help!!

To request a conversation with Focus on the Family’s Counseling Department, call 1-855-771-HELP (4357) weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Mountain Time), or complete our Counseling Consultation Request Form. Please be prepared to leave your contact information for a counselor to return a call to you as soon as possible. The consultation is available at no cost to you due to generous donor support and will be with one of our licensed or pastoral counseling specialists.

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