COVID-19 is Fueling the Opioid Crisis
Despite everything happening, the opioid crisis is continuing to rage on. It has become even more troublesome because different treatment options might not be available. Doctors have had to reduce their hours, practice telemedicine, or even close their offices to protect themselves and their patients. Methadone patients have especially been hit hard. Typically, they must go to the clinics in person to get their daily dose of methadone. This is the exact opposite of social distancing guidelines that have been provided. Clinics also cannot get the medications delivered to all patients, leading to patients potentially not receiving treatment.
Opioids will also become more dangerous the longer that countries have closed borders. Dealers of opioids could potentially cut the drugs with cheap and more dangerous drugs like fentanyl. People are also not getting the proper help they need because of treatment centers being closed. This is very dangerous because people can relapse, which can then lead to people overdosing.
Another problem is high regulation of opioid treatments. When there is no public health crisis involving a highly contagious virus, opioid regulation can prevent misuse of the drugs. When people are not able to be near each other, regulations prevent people from receiving the proper care they need. The opioid epidemic is also a public health crisis, but there are still not enough resources to fully fight the crisis. If it were properly funded, it would be receiving $50 billion a year, but in 2018 it only received $7.4 billion.
Clinics for opioid addiction recovery have always been regulated because of the different risks involved. People can overdose or even resell the drugs. Because of this, methadone patients need to go to the clinics every day to receive treatment. Thankfully, emergency guidelines were created for medication assisted treatment. Doctors can prescribe buprenorphine via telemedicine, stable patients can take home medication, and drugs can be delivered to quarantined patients. This does not mean that the new guidelines have been adopted fully though. It is also unfeasible to expect clinics to deliver these medications to people in very populated areas like New York that have a lot of patients.
Clinics need to be helped during this time because patients can go through withdrawal symptoms, which can be very harmful during the COVID-19 crisis. People may also not go to clinics if there are long waits or if they have large crowds. They might turn to the dangerous opioids that made them addicted in the first place. Problems also arise if people get COVID-19 because they might still have to go to the clinic, which would be dangerous for everyone involved.
Other problems include support groups not being available to patients and syringe exchange programs going online. While this can seem very helpful, it is problematic because many patients do not have Internet access. Other in person services being closed would be harmful because when people do not have the proper support, they can more easily relapse.