The opioid crisis spikes under lockdown

In Erie County, New York, 37 more people have died from overdoses in the first four months of 2020 than during the same period last year — more than twice last year’s number. In Cook County, Illinois, 463 more people died from overdoses than the first five months of 2019 — almost doubling the rate. Overdose deaths in Milwaukee are also up, by 50 percent compared to the first four months of 2019.

An increase in deaths of despair was expected given the isolation of the lockdowns, severe job losses, and reduced access to treatment facilities. For instance, a study from the Well Being Trust projects 75,000 additional deaths of despair due to the coronavirus. These “deaths of despair” include deaths from drug and alcohol abuse as well as suicide.

The doubling of deaths from drug overdoses, however, was more than predicted.

“Oh, goodness. That’s insane,” said Dr. Steven Aks, chief of toxicology for Cook County Health in Illinois, when he learned of the doubled numbers of deaths from drug overdoses.