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A tale of two epidemics: When COVID-19 and opioid addiction collide

April 20, 2020

About the Author

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Peter Grinspoon, MD, Contributor

Dr. Peter Grinspoon is a primary care physician, educator, and cannabis specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital; an instructor at Harvard Medical School; and a certified health and wellness coach. He is the author of the forthcoming book Seeing … See Full Bio
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April 25, 2020

I’m a pharmacist in a low income area. I’ve definitely seen a huge increase in people coming in to buy syringes. I’ve been working at this location for 20 years, and I’m also seeing more homeless people. I also wonder if not having to check in physically with probation officers (hence, no drug testing) is playing a part as well.

May 1, 2020

In my area it would be the issue of accessibility. The main outreach that would deliver supplies after hours once the needle exchanges closed for the night isn’t doing that anymore so have to go to physical location downtown. In a large city this often prevents people in terms of transportation – especially if public transit is done for the night and you are in the outer neighbourhoods. The daytime delivery person is being inundated now and you can wait 2 to 3 days where it was often same day drop offs prior. Some of the facilities that would hand out supplies to their clients, other than the needle exchanges, are closed because of the virus. Hours are reduced at the two exchanges in my city and not sure if the the overdose prevention site has been closed the whole time, temporarily or if they were able to get by on reduced hours alone.

So it’s not always the lack of oversight that increases people purchasing supplies compared to before the pandemic. I am not going to lie and say that it isn’t happening because of course that will be the reason some people decide to use. Honestly though, I would say accessibility is a huge factor but so is the fact that the majority of the supports for mental health and addiction have been eliminated or drastically changed and are no where near adequate for the connection that is so vital to handling addiction with any success. Cutting off the in-person connection, while necessary now I won’t argue that point, put the addict back into the isolation that the addiction had us self-imposing on ourselves and is a powerful trigger.

Dr. Pawan Kumar Aryan
April 21, 2020

People are addicted to Alcohol in India. Unlike USA alcohol is sold under license in India. Surprisingly Alcohol sale is kept open during the lockdown.

What is fundamental difference in Opioid addition and Acohol addiction.

Is alcohol addiction put a person in risk of getting fatal from of Covid 19?

April 20, 2020

Many rural areas in the US have been hard hit by first meth and in the past few years, opiate or opoid addiction, for sure it’s not just an “inner city” problem. Rural areas make it easy to be both socially & physically isolated, and access to health care in rural areas, any health care as well as addiction/substance abuse treatment can be close to unavailable because of the low number of health care providers, addiction counselors, case workers within 75 miles.

Peter Grinspoon, MD
April 20, 2020

Thank you for your insightful comment. I agree — the dire shortage of addiction treatment providers in rural areas of the United States is an absolute disaster and needs to be remedied as soon as possible!

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