Report: COVID-19 Could Trigger Increase in Overdose Deaths
Monday, June 1, 2020
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- The coronavirus pandemic has pushed unemployment rates in Arizona and other states to record highs, and health policy groups worry that could trigger more deaths from suicide, drug use and alcohol abuse.
A new report from Trust for America's Health and the Well Being Trust says for the first time in two decades, deaths from drug overdoses, alcohol abuse and suicide leveled off in 2018.
But John Auerbach, president and CEO of Trust for America's Health, warns that minority communities with lower wages typically report the highest numbers of preventable deaths.
And incredibly high rates of unemployment due to COVID-19 could reverse the progress made in reducing drug abuse.
"The loss of a job, unstable housing, a relationship breakup -- so, we know that the lower your income, the more likely that you're going to be experiencing those and at risk for these causes of death," he states.
The national opioid death rate dropped 2% in 2018, but fatalities from synthetic opioid overdoses increased 10%.
Arizona has the sixth highest rate in the country for prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths, with 1,100 opioid-involved deaths in 2018.
The study also showed a 51% increase in preventable deaths from drugs and suicide over the past decade.
Auerbach says the coronavirus pandemic could reverse gains in mental and behavioral health trends, and says public health officials should be developing policies to prevent deaths of despair.
"We need to make sure that people have easy access to high quality health insurance, where behavioral health is linked in with the physical treatment that they're receiving," he stresses.
Auerbach says research shows that Native Americans, Asians, blacks, Latinos and older adults all experienced increases in drug-induced deaths between 2017 and 2018.
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