Drug overdose deaths set a record in the U.S. in the 12 months leading into last spring’s pandemic lockdowns — and Oregon kept pace with the troubling trend.
More than 81,000 people in the U.S. died from drug overdoses in the 12 months before June 2020 — the most ever recorded in a year-long period, the Oregon Health Authority reported Wednesday. The data comes from a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.
The report concluded that the economic shocks and stay-at-home orders that began in March as the novel coronavirus rolled across the country contributed to the high numbers, stating that the “disruption to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit those with substance-use disorder hard.”
Oregon saw 580 official drug overdose deaths during the 12 months highlighted in the report. The state has a population of a little more than 4 million; the U.S. population is about 330 million.
Oregon Health Authority notes that overdose deaths dramatically spiked in Oregon during the second quarter of 2020, increasing more than 60% from the same period the previous year.
“Food insecurity and disruptions in access to safe housing and mental-health services have compounded stress from job losses, school and social isolation, and other problems brought on by the pandemic,” deputy state health officer Dr. Tom Jeanne said in an OHA statement. “The COVID crisis also interrupted ways people with substance-use disorder can get help, such as mental-health services, 12-step programs and ambulatory visits.”
Most Oregon drug deaths involved opioids, with overdoses from illegal fentanyl and methamphetamine significantly increasing during the second quarter of 2020.
State health officials stress that “opioid-use disorder can be successfully treated” and encourage people struggling with drug abuse to call the Never Use Alone Hotline (800-484-3731) or the Safe + Strong Helpline (800-923-4357) for support and referrals to drug counseling.
— Douglas Perry