How coronavirus pandemic contributed to the risk of drug overdose

New Delhi, India Updated: Apr 27, 2022, 09:58 AM(IST)

Study analyses trends in drug overdose deaths among adolescents in the United States. Photograph:( Others )

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The illicit drug supply has increasingly become "contaminated with illicitly manufactured fentanyls and other synthetic opioid and benzodiazepine analogues," a study noted. 

The unprecedented coronavirus (COVID-19) impacted the lives of people across the world. The deadly virus left millions dead and others grieving. People also suffered from long Covid that led to a range of ill impacts on the health of people people.

The pandemic disrupted the lives of people who use drugs in ways that hurt their mental health. According to a study, Covid changed behaviours of drug use, increasing the risk for overdose. 

The US study 'Trends in Drug Overdose Deaths Among US Adolescents, January 2010 to June 2021', published this month in JAMA Network analysed drug use. 

It noted that the drug supply has increasingly become "contaminated with illicitly manufactured fentanyls and other synthetic opioid and benzodiazepine analogues". 

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"Adolescent drug use rates remained generally stable between 2010 and 2020, with 30.2% and 30.4%, respectively, of 10th-graders reporting any illicit drug use in the past 12 months, which declined to 18.7% of 10th-graders in 2021," the study noted, referring US-based data. 

Drug overdoses have soared during the Covid-19 pandemic, with US overdose deaths topping 100,000 during the 12-month period ending in April 2021, India-based news agency IANS reported, quoting a study published in the journal Addiction Science and Clinical Practice. 

As per researchers, the pandemic and strategies for preventing the spread of the virus, such as stay-at-home orders, may have contributed to this increase in deaths. 

"We know that there has been a tragic increase in overdose deaths during the pandemic. Our study provides insight into why and how there have been more overdose deaths," said Suzan Walters, research assistant professor at New York University's School of Global Public Health. 

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The study mentioned that people who use drugs and live in rural areas may be impacted by changes brought on during the pandemic. The reason is many rural areas have higher rates of opioid and methamphetamine use. 

Between August 2020 and May 2021, the researchers conducted surveys with 50 individuals who use opioids (without a prescription) or inject drugs, and did in-depth interviews with a subset of 17 participants. 

Only 38 per cent of participants felt confident that they could maintain a stable income during the pandemic. Three-quarters of the survey respondents felt more anxious or on edge during the pandemic. More than half felt more depressed and nearly half felt lonelier. 

Such issues lead to anxiety and depression, which is associated with increased substance use, which in turn can increase the risk for overdose. 

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(With inputs from agencies) 

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