Overdose deaths up 73% in Ohio county amid COVID-19 lockdowns

Unsplash/James Yarema

In just one county in Ohio, 437 people have died of an overdose in the first six months of this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic that led to a government-mandated lockdown and the closing of businesses. 

Lockdown restrictions have led to a spike in substance abuse disorders and mental health issues, according to a county official.

Between Jan. 1 and June 30, the number of overdose deaths increased by nearly 75% compared to the first six months of 2019 in Franklin County, whose coroner, Dr. Anahi Ortiz, said, “From May on, probably is when we started seeing increases and increases in those who were dying of overdoses,” according to ABC6.

"Then you have folks who perhaps because they became unemployed, etc., may have not been able to buy their usual, and then when they do get some money, they start using again, and they start at the same doses they were taking previously, and that's when they die," Ortiz said.

Fentanyl accounts for 85% of the overdose deaths, the report says. Ortiz believes it’s being cut into cocaine, meth and pills.

While 437 people had died in the country by June 30, Ortiz fears that the number could increase to 900 by year's end.

More than 27% of those who died from an overdose this year were African American, the report says.

A study, Mental Health Disorders Related to COVID-19–Related Deaths, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association this week, warned that a second wave of devastation stemming from the novel coronavirus pandemic — including soaring suicides and drug overdoses — is imminent with the declining mental health of communities.

“While nations struggle to manage the initial waves of the death and disruption associated with the pandemic, accumulating evidence indicates another ‘second wave’ is building: rising rates of mental health and substance use disorders,” the doctors wrote.

“This imminent mental health surge will bring further challenges for individuals, families, and communities including increased deaths from suicide and drug overdoses. As with the first COVID-19 wave, the mental health wave will disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic individuals, older adults, lower socioeconomic groups of all races and ethnicities, and health care workers.”

More than 3,200 medical and public health scientists, nearly 4,800 medical practitioners, and over 73,100 others have signed onto “The Great Barrington Declaration,” calling for an end to lockdown policies.

“As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection,” the declaration states. 

“Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings, and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice,” it adds.

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