The narrative on COVID-19 is set: lockdown forever despite the evidence, stay inside and isolate no matter how anti-scientific and arbitrary the public health guidelines may be, and definitely do not ask why you have to do anything you are told is for your own good.
So it comes as no surprise that the nearly 90,000 fatal drug overdoses in 2020 are not receiving more media or political attention. We just aren’t supposed to talk about it. Per the CDC, however, this phenomenon “represents a worsening of the drug epidemic” as well as “the largest number of drug overdoses for a 12-month period ever recorded.” Overdose deaths rose by over 25 percent compared to 2019.
COVID-19 lockdowns harmed the psyche of many Americans and will have bone-chilling, long-term consequences on the life expectancy of many more. The lockdowns are directly linked to the tragic spike in youth suicides. Much like the straining of mental health, addiction is a disease of isolation. Thus, people that had recently gotten clean were at an elevated risk of relapse. And with the influx of synthetic opioids coming across the southern border — in addition to the added stress of the era — increases in accidental overdoses were, unfortunately, likely to happen.
To complicate matters, the very nature of the American drug epidemic has shifted. While maintaining their precedence in urban communities, overdose clusters became increasingly suburban and rural in the weeks leading up to the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, during, and shortly thereafter. The drug epidemic has evolved so quickly and aggressively that many of those volunteering on its frontlines are beginning to fatigue.
In West Virginia, for instance, 22 of the state’s 55 counties doubled their overdose numbers from 2019 to 2020. In San Francisco, since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been more than double the deaths from drug overdoses than COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic is under control in America. And, depending on your perspective, it has been under control for quite some time. The states with more relaxed COVID-19 protocols tended to have stronger economies throughout the pandemic and lower COVID-19 death counts than their more strict counterparts. Vaccines are rolling out — thanks to Operation Warp Speed — and the artificially suppressed economy is already starting to recover.
The American drug epidemic is not under control, however, and it has been raging for far longer than COVID-19. Every loss of life from COVID-19 is a tragedy, and our national focus remains on this fact.
But why don’t we pay as much attention to the fact that Americans are dying from drug-related causes around us? These deaths are deaths of despair caused, in part, by COVID-related policy decisions that are almost fully, if not entirely, arbitrary. And as the COVID-19 pandemic begins to subside, we need to get serious about combating the long-standing drug problems that our society faces. If we don’t, more people will lose their lives to future deaths of despair. An intervention is long past due.