Liberia: Opioid Deaths Continue to Rise As Cities Reopen

Tens of thousands of American lives end prematurely every year due to opioid overdoses, leaving families shattered. Dr. Paul Christo, an associate professor in the Division of Pain Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, wants to remind those battling addiction to make use of telemedicine and tele-mental health services that emerged as valuable resources during the pandemic, and he adds, clinicians, need to advocate to their patients that online treatment options are available.

Dr. Christo, who is on the frontlines working to curb the impact of the opioid crisis, also wants patients to know that critical medications for maintaining sobriety can now be prescribed by telehealth or telephone.

“The number of fatalities from opioid-related overdoses could be nearly 30 percent higher than reported due to missing information or incomplete death records,” he says. “The worst fear is that because of social isolation, people are not being found or treated immediately.”

The opioid epidemic today progressed in three phases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The first involves deaths caused by prescription opioids, the second, an increase in heroin use, and the third, a surge in the use of synthetic opioids or fentanyl. Experts say the U.S. is right in the middle of the third phase of the epidemic, due to the increasing availability of fentanyl and increasing rates of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids.

According to a recent study, there were 632,331 drug overdoses between 1999 and 2016. Most of these deaths (78.2 percent) were drug overdoses with known drug classification. Moreover, 21.8 percent were unclassified drug overdoses. A further investigation revealed that for unclassified drug overdoses, 71.8 percent involved opioids, translating to 99,160 additional opioid-related deaths.