After a startling increase in opioid overdoses and deaths during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are again seeing a decrease. There were a total of 837 overdoses in Anne Arundel County during 2021, an 18.9% decrease from 1,032 overdoses in 2020. Overdose fatalities reached 157, more than 17% less than last year. While this is a positive change from 2020, it is still 15.9% higher than 2019 for overdoses and 24.6% higher for overdose deaths. The chart below illustrates the changes in overdose and fatalities over the past 5 years.
What are opioids?
Opiates/ opioids are drugs that are used to relieve pain because of the way they suppress the central nervous system. This method of pain treatment causes many individuals to become tolerant of the drug. When this happens, a higher dose of the drug is needed to achieve the same pain-relieving effect. For many people, this is how addiction begins.
The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic:
When businesses and social activities began shutting down in March 2020, individuals suffering from addiction lost the support systems they needed to stay sober. Increases in calls to mental health helplines were an early indication of the unintended consequences and a reminder that the illness caused by covid-19 is not the only way people are affected by the pandemic (Bhat, 2020). The CDC reported that the 12 months leading up to May 2020 had the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a year at over 81,000 nationwide (Bhat, 2020).
Opioid Overdose Response Training: Naloxone is a prescription medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose to prevent death. Save a life by learning how to identify signs of an overdose and administer naloxone. Go to PreventSubstanceMisuse.org/Narcan-training to register.