Paul Christo, MD: The COVID-19 Pandemic and Opioid-Related Deaths

October 2, 2020

An expert discusses the effect the pandemic has had on opioid use and related deaths.

The ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has forced states across the US to implement lockdown measures. As a result, authorities have reported increased cases of opioid-related overdoses and deaths.

Although there is no precise estimate as to how many individuals have overdosed on opioids this year, there is an expectation that the figure will surpass the total number of cases from 2019.

Paul Christo, MD, a professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, further explained in an interview with HCPLive® how the pandemic has played a driving role in exacerbating this crisis related to opioid usage.

Social isolation, depression, anxiety, and economic loss are just several factors that have contributed to the increased use of opioids and illicit drugs.

Christo emphasized that the emotional devastation wrought by the pandemic has led people to turn to the use of mind-altering substances as a coping mechanism.

“I think that once we get a vaccine — which hopefully will come soon — we will see fewer opioid overdoses and fewer overdoses related to drugs,” he said.

He also explained that the opioid crisis has occurred in three phases. Initially, the epidemic was due to the use of prescription opioids. It then progressed to overdoses from heroine, before transitioning to increased use of illicitly manufactured drugs. He considered this distinction to be especially important to understand.