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CDC Data Shows a Staggering Increase in Overdose Deaths

A recent health alert from the CDC has shown a significant increase in deaths from overdoses. For the 12 month period ended in May 2020, preliminary statistics are showing drug deaths of over 81,000 in the United States alone.

This is significantly worse than prior years. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl have contributed the most to this increase, however overdoses of meth and cocaine have also been seen. Synthetic opioid deaths alone have increased almost 40% in the one year period. Possibly even more startling is an almost doubling of synthetic opioid deaths in 10 western states.

The Addiction Academy’s Take

We’ve known for years that the trend toward drug use and ultimately overdose has continued upward and the battle against drug abuse has been challenging with little progress being made. However, there was a glimmer of hope in the 2017 to 2018 period, when drug overdose deaths were down about 4%. While it could’ve been an anomaly, there was a definite feeling of having turned a corner.

However the 18% increase in overdose deaths through May 2020 shows a new peak, which coincides with the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown. It is impossible to quantify exactly how many overdose deaths can be directly attributed pandemic/lockdown associated mental illness, but the CDC said that the worst period of these deaths happened during the lockdown months.

This certainly stands to reason. A global pandemic combined with what we now call social distancing can put a strain on the strongest of us. For those battling addiction or mental health issues, the isolation and uncertainty can push anxiety to a breaking point.

The Counselor’s Role

When we see multiple crises at these levels, it simply strains the system. Just as hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID patients, counselors may be overwhelmed with clients and may experience an even greater degree of burn out as they manage their own anxieties and uncertainties.

While it is easy to say that counselors need to practice greater compassion and understanding of client’s current difficulties, it is certainly not easy to implement. Rather, counselors should redouble their self-care efforts to improve their own mental health and ensure that they are able to offer their clients consistent and focused care. 

Beyond that, any opportunity the counselor has to spread the word about addiction and prevention has always been, and continues to be, of paramount importance.