A Year in Review: Ohio’s Drug Addiction Epidemic in 2020

Last Updated: October 25, 2022

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The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened another crisis that has impacted Ohio for years: drug addiction. The pandemic’s isolation and stress are causing many to turn to drugs and alcohol to cope. Some are developing new addictions while others are relapsing back into substance use, resulting in a spike in drug overdose deaths.

The Millennium Report Shows Spike in Illicit Drug Use in Ohio During Pandemic

Millennium Health analysis of around 500,000 urine drug tests found that fentanyl, cocaine, heroin and meth use has increased significantly during the pandemic. Since March 13, 2020 (the date when COVID-19 was declared a national emergency), positive test rates increased throughout the United States:

  • 31.96% for fentanyl use
  • 19.96% for meth use
  • 10.06% for cocaine use
  • 12.53% for heroin use

In Ohio, positive test rates increased:

  • 29% for fentanyl use
  • 19% for meth use
  • 26% for cocaine use
  • 35% for heroin use

While Ohio’s fentanyl and meth positivity rates are similar to the national average, positive test rates for cocaine and heroin are significantly higher than average. As a result, the number of overdoses caused by opioids like heroin has risen sharply.

Drug Overdose Rates Rising in Ohio

Franklin County made national news when overdose deaths increased by around 75% in the first six months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. Harm Prevention Ohio found that in the same time, statewide overdose deaths had risen by 29.5% compared to the previous year.

In many of these overdoses, the primary cause of death was fentanyl, present in 78.2% of overdose fatalities. Many people who use cocaine are overdosing on the fentanyl it’s cut with; fentanyl was found in 79% of cocaine overdose deaths at the time of the study. Methamphetamine is also being cut with fentanyl, causing additional overdoses. However, heroin overdose deaths have continued to drop, likely due to the wide availability of fentanyl.

Outlook for 2021

Unfortunately, up-to-date data about drug use and overdose rates can be difficult to find. The general consensus is that the pandemic is causing substance abuse to rise, but the true impact remains to be seen. However, experts believe that COVID-19 will be here to stay for a while, meaning it’s up to individual countries to take action to mitigate the pandemic’s effects. If the pandemic is not handled appropriately and people remain isolated, stressed and financially struggling, the trend of increased substance abuse could easily continue.

COVID’s Impact on Mental Health and Substance Use

The ongoing pandemic is negatively affecting people’s mental health. Lockdowns and social distancing measures have caused many Americans to feel isolated and stressed, while widespread unemployment has made millions struggle financially. Poor mental health and feelings of stress and uncertainty can lead to substance use to self-medicate, which can further damage mental health and cause addiction to develop.

Unemployment also plays a role in substance use. Compared to employed people, unemployed individuals are 87% more likely to report heavy alcohol use and 65% more likely to use illicit drugs. Many people in recovery are also struggling, as social distancing means that in-person support meetings cannot be held and other community services are restricted.

COVID’s Impact on Treatment Accessibility in Ohio

Though the pandemic has impacted many Americans’ mental health, one silver lining is that treatment accessibility has grown with the expansion of telehealth services. In many areas, people can now access lifesaving care from the comfort of their own homes via virtual doctor’s visits and online therapy. The Recovery Village Columbus offers its own telehealth service, which connects licensed therapists and counselors to clients online. Our multidisciplinary team of experts also provides evidence-based care at our state-of-the-art rehab facility in Columbus, Ohio.

Recovery is possible, even in a pandemic. Contact us today to learn more about treatment plans and recovery programs that can work well for your situation.

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