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In the coronavirus pandemic, drug overdose deaths reached record highs in the United States

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Michelle Branch lost her brother Craig Ellazer on September 1, 2020 due to an overdose of fentanyl. He had been supported by an addiction he had been struggling with since he was 12 years old, but the pandemic changes in the world of the coronavirus eventually led to his premature death.

Branch losses will be one in tens of thousands in 2020, according to preliminary data from the National Center for Health Statistics of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last year, more than 93,000 people died from drug overdose.

This means that 2020 was the most deadly year in the record of drug overdose.

“That’s terrible news,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, vice president of public health practice at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a former vice committee member of the US Food and Drug Administration.

“We had such a devastating year from a pandemic, and in addition, a record number of Americans died from drug overdose.”

Accidental mistakes lead to tragedy

Elazer’s struggle with addiction continued most of his life. He used alcohol primarily, but he also used other medications to self-treat his anxiety. He was in and out of the rehab center, but didn’t seem to stick to anything.

Ellazar was released from prison “tapping in the middle of Covid,” his sister said, and he found a job to take care of their disabled cousins ​​despite the national tendency of unemployment. , “St. Louis.”

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While he joined Alcoholics Anonymous and was conducting a two-step program, restrictions on face-to-face gatherings brought support groups online and depleted funds for other support programs.

Elazer wasn’t familiar with how to access online support groups using current technology, so he couldn’t get much help. He stopped going to AA meetings and eventually fell into alcohol and substance abuse.

The night he killed him, his sister said he probably thought he had bought Xanax. But what he bought, and finally used, was actually fentanyl.

Brunch and her cousin sent their cousin’s son to find out what had happened after failing to contact Elazer all night. At the front door of Elazer’s apartment, there was a mailslot on the ground where his son could see Elazer’s feet, where he lay still. He called an ambulance, but it was too late.

Branch received a call from his cousin that night that Elazer was “lost.”

“I couldn’t understand it, and I was like,” Where did you go? ” And she says, “Sherry, I think he’s gone.” “”

“From the highest price ever to the new highest price ever”

According to NCHS, overdose rates have increased since 1999. In 2019, 70,630 people died, an increase of almost 30% in 2020 compared to that year’s proportion.

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“This is a huge increase from the highest ever to the new highest ever,” said Sharfstein. “And it just reflects a lot of tragedy, suffering … and each death is surrounded by a circle of trauma.

“People who care about that person, their family, their loved ones, their friends. So the overall impact is devastating.”

Schaffstein also cited the Covid-19 pandemic as the reason for the surge in deaths from overdose in 2020. He said the pandemic caused a band of “sadness, trauma, economic and social turmoil.” People who may have recovered from their addiction or who may have never used any medication may find themselves in a dire situation. Perhaps they lost their loved ones or lost their jobs. Schaffstein says these risk factors can force someone to use the drug.

Track trends in real time

The statistics are strict, but there are measures that can be taken to mitigate the damage.

Schaffstein wants another comparison with Covid-19, in this case a comparison of the urgency of response efforts and ingenuity.

He emphasized that tracking the problem is an important step in addressing the problem, and the data collection effort “was robust on daily maps, but got new cases, got new cases. , Tested, vaccinated, “Collecting overdose data was not so urgent.

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“This is July and we are getting data for 2020,” he said. “As with Covid, we can better process our data and use it to focus our energy on the populations, groups, and territories that need the most attention.”

Treatment strategies that have become prominent during the pandemic process may also be used to address the crisis of overdose. For example, the use of telemedicine has skyrocketed beyond the pandemic, and Sharfstein believes that telemedicine may play an important role in addressing addiction-related health problems.

Schaffstein believes that overdose deaths may decrease as the country moves to a less urgent stage of a pandemic. However, he emphasizes that the improvements did not solve the problem, and that current resources are “not enough.”

“The main priority for 2021 is to follow the evidence and do the same thing we did at Covid,” he said. “We use science, we use evidence, we use compassion, and we provide treatment and support to those who need them.”

For Brunch, she never brings her brother back. But after he died, “calmness struck me, because he is free.”

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