It was a pandemic within a pandemic, in other words. In April 2020, the Covid-19 epidemic tightened its grip on the world, and it hasn’t let go since that time. Aside from that, it marked the start of a year that would see 100,000 opioid-related deaths in the United States.
That was the highest number recorded since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began counting them in 1999, and it represented a 28 percent increase over the previous year.
When viewed in context, the figure becomes even more astounding. The number of opioid-related deaths in that year accounted for more than 10% of the total of 910,000 Americans who have died due to the epidemic thus far.
April 2020 was also the month in which federal stimulus payments were sent to help reduce the economic damage caused by the disaster.
It appears that the stimulus checks and other activities may have had at least one negative side effect, according to peer-reviewed research conducted using data from the Ohio Department of Health and commissioned by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
Although “government-provided income assistance payments are intended to pay for basic needs, (they) may be facilitating a cyclic pattern of substance use and increased overdose deaths,” according to the report, “policy responses to the pandemic have inadvertently resulted in contributing to the exacerbation of the epidemic.”
International Journal of Drug Policy will publish the report written by Yost’s staff and faculty members at Bowling Green State University in the coming months.
As part of the research announcement on Thursday, Yost called attention to the potential harm that the stimulus payments could have produced. Some scholars refer to this tendency as the “check effect.”
According to the statement, “the relationship between pandemic relief money and opioid overdose deaths is now obvious.” “While the intention was to assist Americans in navigating this deadly pandemic, the result was an uncontrollable tide of overdoses.”
However, because that link isn’t a straight one, it’s a little bit of a wild guess. The analysis concluded that the checks could have played a factor in the increase in deaths.
According to the report, further research is needed to determine whether there is a link between the COVID-19 economic impact payments and overdose deaths. “The detected transition point could correspond to the timing of a variety of events, not just the economic incentives,” it added.
The pandemic brought with it a slew of factors that could have been particularly damaging to people suffering from addiction: social isolation, unemployment, disrupted access to medical care and counseling — not to mention the very real fear of becoming ill and dying.
In an interview, Yost recognized the existence of additional elements that contributed to the situation. According to him, “the constraint on it is that (the stimulus checks) aren’t the only cause.”
“According to the newspaper, we were amid a lockdown, there was widespread anxiety, and we had no idea what this epidemic was going to look like,” she said.
In the midst of all of this, we have this infusion of cash, and the research indicates that it was a contributing cause, but not the main cause.”
In addition, data on overdoses since the stimulus checks were ceased in late 2020 might be used to assess the impact of the checks on the overdose epidemic, according to the authors. However, due to delays in the process, it appears that such figures are not yet accessible.
Yost clarified that he was not implying that the stimulus funds were a terrible idea when he announced the study. He stated that they were critical then.
In his opinion, “I don’t think anyone could argue that it was a mistake” to send out the checks, he added. “First and foremost, we were completely unaware of the impending surge in overdoses at the time.
Second, the threat of a collapsing economy and the displacement of people from their homes was deemed the most serious threat.
“A lot was going on. So you’re not going to send money? Would you not put that money on the line amid a global financial crisis? It appears to me that this is a little bit of a stretch.”
Although wide decisions were made hastily at the outset of the crisis, Yost believes that in the future, it will be vital to look into the consequences — both intentional and unplanned — of those decisions.
“Now that we have this data point, our politicians should take it into consideration in the future when they design these initiatives; they should ask themselves, ‘How can we do this in a way that would mitigate against what we know happened?”
Overdose Drugs Deaths in the U.S. Top 100,000 yearly
According to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, an estimated 100,306 drug overdose deaths will occur in the United States during the 12 months ending in April 2021, representing a 28.5 percent increase from the 78,056 deaths that occurred during the same period the year before.
According to the latest data, estimated overdose deaths from opioids jumped to 75,673 in the 12 months ending in April 2021, from 56,064 in the same period the previous year.
During the 12 months ending in April 2021, the number of overdose deaths from synthetic opioids (mainly fentanyl) and psychostimulants such as methamphetamine climbed.
Deaths from cocaine and natural and semi-synthetic opioids have also increased, as have deaths from other drugs (such as prescription pain medication).
This visualization includes provisional data on the reported and predicted (estimated) provisional counts of deaths due to drug overdose that have occurred nationally and in each jurisdiction; a U.S. map of the percentage changes in provisional drug overdose deaths for the current 12-month ending period compared with the previous 12-month ending period ending in the same month of the previous year, by jurisdiction; and provisional data on the reported and predicted provisional counts of drug overdose deaths that have occurred nationally and in each jurisdiction.
Preliminary estimates of the number of deaths due to drug overdose recorded and expected for the months ending in the month indicated are based on data from 12-month periods that ended in the month indicated.
These numbers are inclusive of all seasons of the year and are not sensitive to fluctuations caused by seasonal variation. Deaths are reported to the authorities in the jurisdiction where the death occurred.
COVID-19 economic money and opioid overdose drugs deaths
Aiming to understand better the relationship between global economic recessions mediated by the COVID-19 pandemic and direct income support programs, we looked at the relationship between COVID-19 economic impact payments and opioid overdose deaths to better understand the relationship between these two variables.
A longitudinal, observational study design was used, with data from the Ohio Department of Health being used as the source of information. From January 1st, 2018, to August 1st, 2020, statistical change-point studies were performed to find statistically significant variations in the number of weekly opioid overdose deaths.
Additional tests were performed, such as differences, time-series tests, discontinuous panel data regression analysis, and the Granger causality test.
A single transition point was discovered, and it took place on the 16th week of 2020. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the median opioid overdose mortality counts for weeks 1–16 and weeks 17–32 in 2020 were 68.5 and 101, respectively.
The number of opioid overdoses from weeks 17–32 in 2020 was much greater than the number of deaths from weeks 1–16 in 2020 and 2018 and 2019. (before and after week 16).
When comparing the weeks 17–32 of 2020 to all other weeks, the interrupted time series regression analysis revealed more than 203 fatalities weekly for those weeks.
Following the application of the Granger causality test, it was discovered that the change point indicated (week 16 of 2020) had a direct impact on the increase in opioid overdose deaths in weeks 17–32 of 2020.
The transition point found can pertain to the timing of various events, not just monetary transfers. Additional research is required to study the potential association between the COVID-19 economic effect payments and overdose deaths.