Deaths of Despair and COVID-19

Deaths of Despair

Jason Batten, LPC, ALPS, AADC, MLADCDeaths of despair are deaths that are the result of suicide, drug overdose, alcohol poisoning, or liver disease caused by alcohol use. Deaths of despair have risen over the last decade according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data and have continued to dramatically rise since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. The CDC data shows that in 2020 overdose deaths from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl increased by 38.4%, overdose deaths involving cocaine increased by 26.5%, and overdose deaths involving psychostimulants, such as methamphetamine increased by 34.8% (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020).

COVID-19 brought in social and economic hardships, such as the rise in social isolation, unemployment, and homelessness. In areas with a large number of individuals experiencing homelessness, a record number of overdose-related deaths have been recorded (Chau, 2020). Financial insecurity such as unemployment, underemployment, and homeless can lead to increased feelings of uncertainty and grief due to individuals struggling to meet their basic needs. Social isolation can lead to increased feelings of loneliness and exposure to family violence.

A Rise in Mental Health Conditions

These stressors have left many struggling to cope with their distress and exasperating pre-existing mental health conditions. In a survey conducted by the CDC in June 2020, more than 40% of the Americans who participated indicated they had begun to experience “adverse mental or behavioral health conditions” since COVID-19 began (Czeisler et al, 2020). More than 30% of the individuals surveyed by the CDC reported experiencing anxiety or depression symptoms (Czeisler et al, 2020). Another 13% of individuals surveyed indicated that they had begun misusing substances or increased their misuse of substances as a way to cope with the “stress or emotions related to COVID”, while 11% indicated they were contemplating suicide as a result of the distress brought on from COVID-19 (Czeisler et al, 2020).

The Importance of Getting and Making Help Accessible

Preventative methods such as harm reduction programs and naloxone distribution can be a helpful way to begin to address the rise in overdose deaths. Harm reduction programs, such as crisis response teams and needle exchange programs, can be used to mitigate some of the safety risks experienced while also providing education about resources and treatment options available. Naloxone is a safe and effective way to help reverse overdoses and prevent deaths, further allowing the individual time to receive assistance.

Both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs can also effectively be used to treat the co-occurring disorders of substance misuse and mental health disorders. Encouraging those struggling with substance misuse to seek treatment and receive intervention early is crucial to saving lives. Learn more about our outpatient program

About kathy ireland® Recovery Centers – Laconia

kathy ireland® Recovery Centers – Laconia (ki®RC) merges the brand of excellence of kathy ireland® Worldwide with the management expertise of Ascension Recovery Services. ki®RC provides treatment across the continuum for people struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues. ki®RC – Laconia provides Intensive Outpatient and Outpatient services to aid clients in their recovery journey. Managed by Ascension Recovery Services, ki®RC – Laconia’s leadership team has decades of experience in the industry and brings the requisite expertise to assist in providing focused, high-quality care.