For opioid drug users, the COVID-19 pandemic adds crisis on top of crisis. Physiologically, opioid users may be more vulnerable to health complications related to COVID-19 because of compromised respiratory and pulmonary health. Socially, since opioid addiction is a disease of isolation, the social isolation under the pandemic may cause people to relapse and increases the risk of overdose. Due to stigma and profit-driven structures that have criminalized drug use, drug users are more likely to be incarcerated or homeless—both alarming risks in the face of the virus, and both situations that make good hygiene difficult and social distancing nearly impossible.
The pandemic also presents challenges for therapy clinics and harm reduction programs. Governor Lamont’s executive order to expand Medicaid during the outbreak permitted methadone clinics to continue Medicaid services via telehealth. But this shift to online health care reveals another disparity: access to broadband. Equitable access to health care will remain far from reach without addressing the digital divide in Connecticut. Increasing support to harm reduction programs, such as syringe exchange centers and naloxone providers, will also be crucial to keep the COVID-19 pandemic from undoing the state’s decade-long effort to curb the opioid epidemic. In Manchester, a recent USA Today report highlighted how therapy centers are not only losing funding due to the cutback in in-person programs, but have also been blocked from federal relief funds, resulting in life-threatening consequences for their patients.
Source: The Connecticut Mirror