The COVID-19 pandemic led to a nearly 30% drop in Californians admitted to addiction treatment centers
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a nearly 30% drop in Californians admitted to addiction treatment facilities, even as drug overdose deaths rose in the US, study shows
- A new study found that the number of Californians admitted to addiction treatment centers fell by 28% during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Increased social isolation caused by the pandemic led to an increase in opioid addiction last year
- Drop in use of the centers equates to a 30% rise in drug addiction deaths nationwide, according to a new CDC report
- Researcher says many did not seek treatment for their addiction last year for fear of the virus, leading to spike in deaths
The number of Californians admitted to addiction treatment centers dropped dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) collected data from centers across the state.
They found that the number of admissions has fallen by almost 30 percent in 2020.
It comes on the heels of a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which found that last year a record 93,000 drug overdose deaths occurred, up 29.4 percent from 72,000 since 2019.
During the pandemic, addiction treatment center admissions in California fell by 28%. The decline is accompanied by a spike in opioid deaths across the country
Preliminary CDC data shows that 93,331 drug overdose deaths were recorded in the U.S. in 2020, a 29.4% increase from 72,151 deaths reported in 2019
For the study, published Wednesday in JAMA Network Open, the team looked at data from January 2019 to October 2020 at treatment centers across the state.
They counted March 2020 through October 2020 as part of the COVID-19 pandemic and the previous 14 months as pre-pandemic.
In the 14 months before the pandemic, an average of 12,544 Californians were admitted to facilities.
That average dropped to 8,994, a 28 percent drop from pre-pandemic.
Drops were consistent across gender, race, ethnicity, education, parental status, or whether the patient had previously been hospitalized for their addiction.
Larger decreases were seen in young people under 25 and in salaried employees.
The decline in treatment use during the pandemic was not a specific problem for opioid addiction last year.
The World Health Organization predicts that the true global death toll from the pandemic in 2020 was eight million — more than double the official COVID death count of 3.4 million last year.
Many people avoided treatment for various conditions like heart disease, diabetes and others last year because of the social distancing guidelines introduced during the pandemic.
However, avoiding treatment could have been a death sentence as people’s conditions worsened because they were not receiving medical treatment.
This also happened to people struggling with opioid addiction, such as the pandemic disturbed treatment programs.
Drug overdose deaths rose by 30% last year as many people did not seek treatment for their addiction
‘Individuals may have been reluctant to seek addiction treatment for fear of becoming infected with [COVID]’, the researchers wrote.
“Greater coverage and more certainty about the safety of treatment during the pandemic may have allayed these concerns. The decline may also reflect the inability of addiction treatment organizations to treat as many patients as they were before the pandemic.”
The pandemic also caused long periods of social isolation for many, making them more vulnerable to addiction.
The team believes health and government officials could have done more to get people the treatment they needed and prevent deaths.
“Faster and more robust government action to purchase personal protective equipment, telehealth equipment, additional staff and space to deliver socially distancing services may have helped maintain access,” they wrote.