Deaths from drug overdoses are likely to increase during the coronavirus outbreak because of disruption to recovery routines and access to treatment, according to counselors and people whose rehabilitation depends on daily care.
Lockdowns and social distancing have forced doctors, social services, and support groups to shut down, reduce hours, or move online — leaving people who use drugs and those in recovery to face greater risks with less support.
The coronavirus emergency has also presented new problems for people being treated for opioid use disorder — the medical term for opioid addiction — at methadone clinics. In order to collect their daily doses, patients typically have to go in person, which has made social distancing impossible for some. Service providers in New York, which is now the epicenter of the US coronavirus outbreak, say they don’t have the resources to handle delivery for all of the patients who are likely to become ill and require quarantine.
Patients have long feared what would happen if their treatment became unavailable.
“This is stuff that in recovery folks that are on methadone talk about — ‘Oh my gosh, what if there was an apocalypse ha ha ha ha and we couldn’t get our doses?’” said Leslie Beckham, who has been in treatment programs on and off for six years, and now attends a clinic in New London, Connecticut. “It’s kind of a running joke a little bit, but now it’s serious.”