Canaan, CT – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that there were approximately 93,000 drug overdose deaths in 2020, a 30 percent surge compared to 2019. This tragedy has broken several records, including the highest number of overdoses in a single year as well as the largest amount of annual opioid overdoses.
During the pandemic, drug overdoses raged across the Northeast. In Connecticut, there was a nearly 11 percent increase from 1,251 estimated overdose deaths in December 2019 to 1,385 deaths in December 2020.
Overdose deaths had been climbing since 2019, but the coronavirus pandemic collectively worsened America’s mental health, especially for those with a history of substance misuse or mental illness. “This has been a time of distance and dissonance for many of us. We are used to a certain cadence and rhythm, and the global pandemic has shaken our foundation, our sense of reality and what is possible, along with reshaping all of our relationships and daily structures,” says Jana Wu, LCSW, LADC, ICADC, Program Manager of Outpatient Services at Mountainside.
As a result, multiple factors likely fueled the uptick in overdose deaths, including increased anxiety, depression, and loneliness, a lack of access to in-person supports (such as 12 Step meetings), reduced treatment services during the pandemic, and more Americans overdosing alone behind closed doors.
Despite the grim statistics from last year, people battling substance use disorders are by no means doomed. “While some clients are relapsing, I am seeing many more people reach out and ask for help and support,” Wu reflects. “They are telling people ‘I am not okay’ and proactively reaching out and engaging in online support meetings and participating on text chains with others in recovery rooms or in treatment. I am incredibly impressed by many people’s resilience and ability to utilize their coping skills during this time.”
The growing availability of telehealth services and medication-assisted treatment provide additional reasons for hope, along with the evolving cultural understanding that addiction is a disease rather than a moral wrongdoing. Mountainside has likewise increased its efforts to reach community members struggling with substance use during this vulnerable time by offering additional services and online support groups.
Individuals and families are welcome to participate in Mountainside’s range of free, virtual support groups, including weekly Family and Friends Support Groups: https://mountainside.com/community/events/virtual-support-groups/
In addition to in-person programming, the treatment center has introduced a telehealth option. Learn more about telehealth services at Mountainside by visiting: https://mountainside.com/telehealth/