Covid-19, in a year of pandemic in the United States there were 100 thousand deaths from overdose

Covid-19, in a year of pandemic in the United States there were 100 thousand deaths from overdose
Covid-19, in a year of pandemic in the United States there were 100 thousand deaths from overdose

As the graph from the National Center for Health Statistics shows, US drug-related deaths in the early 2000s, considering both illicit substances how much the opioids prescribed by doctors, settled around 20 thousand per year. The number has slowly continued to rise: in 2011 it reached 40 thousand, in 2015 it was the turn of 50 thousand deaths. At that point the number of fatal overdoses accelerated and in 2019, the pre-pandemic year, there were over 70,000 deaths. The new report from the National Center for Health Statistics now reveals that in the period from April 2020 to April 2021 the figure has exceeded the tragic threshold of 100 thousand, settling in 100.306. This is an increase of 28,5% compared to what was recorded in the same period of the previous year, an indicator of the fact that America’s opioid epidemic is not only getting worse, it is doing so at a frightening rate, since such numbers had never been touched.

“To all those families who have mourned a loved one and all those people who are facing addiction or are on the mend: you are in our hearts. Together, we will change the fate of this epidemic “, declared the American president Joe Biden. Already in 2017 the then Republican president Donald Trump had declared the massacre caused by opioids a ‘national health emergency.

Where does the American emergency arise?

There are many reasons why the United States has been experiencing a similar emergency for years. The surge in deaths has occurred over the past decade and it is no coincidence that this happened right after the great financial crisis, with thousands of people sunk in the economic and social precariousness who have found a last resort in drugs.

In the American case there is also a problem of accessibility to substances, much easier than other countries. While the deaths figures from fentanyl and methamphetamines have skyrocketed in recent years, so has the death toll from arrests of doctors, pharmacists and nurses who illegally supplied the population with the substances. In addition to this, even in the legal circuits the prescription of opiates and opioids it has been excessive and this has created pockets of legal drug addicts, who started using them on the doctor’s recommendation for their pathologies and ended up never getting out of them.

In general, obtaining an opioid in US pharmacies is much easier than in other countries such as Italy, where they are needed more stringent requirements. The non-massive use of the naloxone, a synthetic drug that reverses the effects of other narcotics and that has helped many countries to manage drug addiction is another American problem belonging to the therapy phase.

Finally, the pharmaceutical companies themselves played an important role in the creation of the emergency. In the summer of 2019, an Oklahoma judge sentenced the multinational Johnson & Johnson to pay 572 million dollars to the state for having contributed to the diffusion. According to the indictment this happened through forms of fraudulent marketing with which thousands of more reluctant doctors have been persuaded to prescribe opioids to fuel a billion-dollar business. To this are added the settlements with which other important manufacturers of these substances, such as Purdue Pharma e Teva Pharmaceutical, have pledged to pay checks for tens of millions of dollars from the state.

The role of the pandemic

Now to this already critical situation has been added the Covid-19 pandemic, which according to experts is the main cause of the surge of almost 30% of overdose deaths in the last period.

On the one hand the mental fragility due to the health emergency and the socio-economic consequences that it has brought with it an army of new consumers of fentanyl and the like. On the other hand, it has become more difficult to follow those who already had a drug addiction before the pandemic and who, with the lockdown on the one hand, suffered thesocial isolation, on the other the difficulty in accessing therapies due to travel restrictions. A problem, that of drug use during the most acute phases of Covid-19 and the parallel decrease in treatment, which is not exclusive to the United States but which has also occurred in Europe. Where, however, the data, in relation, are decidedly lower.

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