Suspected US drug overdoses climbing steadily amid pandemic

Suspected drug overdoses have significantly increased nationwide during the pandemic, likely due to Americans' prolonged isolation, economic hardships and changes to the U.S. drug trade, reports The Washington Post.

Suspected overdoses were up 18 percent in March, 29 percent in April and 42 percent in May compared to the same period in 2019, according to data the Post obtained from the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program. The federal program tracks real-time data on drug-related emergency calls from ambulance teams, hospitals and police. 

Definitive data on overdoses trends may not be available for five to six months due to the slow nature of federal reporting processes. However, the current figures suggest that overdoses are not only increasing, but accelerating as the pandemic progresses, the Post said. 

Officials said the increase is likely due to several factors, including the fact that many people are taking drugs in isolation, making it less likely that someone will be around to call 911 or administer naloxone if they overdose. 

COVID-19 also has disrupted the U.S. drug trade, causing people to use new suppliers or drugs they are less familiar with, medical examiners told the Post

Many treatment programs, recovery centers and needle-exchange programs have closed or scaled back services during the pandemic. Health advocates say emergency funding is needed to help keep these programs and services afloat.

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