Medical City Healthcare - October 14, 2020

The increase in opioid usage and opioid-related death continues to climb in the U.S. as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. Since the pandemic began, more than 40 states have reported an increase in opioid-related deaths, according to the American Medical Association. For every 10 suspected overdoses reported to the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program (ODMAP) in May 2019, 14 overdoses were reported in May 2020.

In 2017, when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared the opioid crisis a public emergency, drug overdose deaths reached a record high of more than 70,000. According to the CDC, the U.S. appears to be on track to eclipse that number in 2020. The majority of drug overdose deaths—almost 70% in 2018—continue to be attributed to opioids such as prescription painkillers and heroin.

COVID-19 and the opioid crisis

Opioids, a class of drugs used to treat active and chronic pain, are often prescribed following surgery, injury or for health conditions such as cancer. Common types of prescription opioids include oxycodone (Oxycontin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, morphine and methadone. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever approved for treating severe pain, such as advanced cancer pain. In 2018, 10.3 million people misused prescription opioids.

“COVID-19 has really been a challenge for people suffering from addiction,” says Wendy Clubb, a behavioral health and chemical dependency counselor at Medical City Green Oaks Hospital.

Clubb says the pandemic has caused people suffering from addiction to slowly move toward a more consistent relationship with mood-altering substances such as alcohol or drugs.

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. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), these individuals are more likely to have suppressed immune systems, are at greater risk for respiratory infections, and may have chronic, underlying health conditions such as lung and heart diseases. These health factors could present a greater risk for COVID-19 infection, or more serious cases of the disease.

Clubb offers these 7 tips for addiction recovery during the pandemic:

  • Work on rebuilding relationships with people who can support you in your recovery
  • Seek family counseling to help facilitate communication with family members
  • Complete a screening with a healthcare professional specializing in substance use disorders so that you receive the appropriate care
  • Eat a nutritious diet and exercise often
  • Take advantage of online recovery meetings and other virtual resources
  • Connect with your sponsors and other supporters through FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, etc.
  • Clear your mind daily with activities that relax and rejuvenate your body and your soul

24/7/365 Drug Take Back Program

Medical City Healthcare is helping to Crush the Crisis through our Drug Take Back Program at 12 Medical City Healthcare hospitals. These conveniently located drug take back boxes are compliant with Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regulations and may be accessed, free of charge, any day of the year. Our Drug Take Back Program enables North Texans to safely and anonymously remove prescription opioids and other medications from their homes where the drugs are vulnerable to misuse, theft or abuse by family members and visitors, including children and teens.

“It’s important for the community to know how they can securely bring back medications, get those medications out of the medicine cabinets where they’re within reach of other members of the family and kids and dispose of them safely so they don’t go into the waste system or water supply,” says Miguel Benet, MD, chief medical officer at Medical City Healthcare. “Providing this service allows a secure place where community members can bring them back so they can be processed appropriately. At Medical City Healthcare, we are proud of our efforts to “Crush the Crisis” on opioids.”

Additional resources

If someone you know is struggling with opioid addiction or abuse, find more information and helpful resources in our blog, How to Get Help for Opioid Addiction.

If you're unsure how to spot possible opioid addiction or need strategies to help prevent potential opioid abuse, read The Growing Opioid Crisis: What You Need to Know.

Concerned about substance abuse? Visit with a trusted medical specialist about treatment options.

If someone has overdosed, call 911 immediately.

For fast, emergency help in a crisis, look to one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas.

At Medical City Healthcare, we’re dedicated to the care and improvement of human life. So, we hope you’ll Take Care!

For more information, call our Ask a Nurse hotline 24/7 or use Find a Doctor online.

Sign up for the Take Care E-Newsletter