Opioid and Fentanyl Use

Opioid Use and Fentanyl Deaths Rise During the Pandemic

Never before the COVID-19 pandemic had America witnessed such alarming numbers related to opioid addiction and fentanyl deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports synthetic opioid fatalities rose by an unparalleled 55% during the twelve months ending in September 2020.1 While reports show deaths from methamphetamines and other stimulants also increased by roughly 46% the increase has been linked to fentanyl contamination.2

overdose deaths during pandemic

As the pandemic forced people indoors and interrupted the substance use disorder treatment for tens of thousands of Americans, those in isolation battling fentanyl addiction fared most poorly. As the country fought a deadly health pandemic, a secondary silent pandemic claimed the lives of 81,003 Americans.3 In the 12 months ending in June 2020, that’s how many people died from drug overdose deaths, primarily powered by fentanyl.

Fentanyl Deaths Before The Pandemic

Studies have shown an increasing number of Americans turned to alcohol or illicit drugs to cope with the challenges of the pandemic. While numbers leading into spring 2020 indicated a slight increase in drug deaths than the year prior, experts say the pandemic triggered a massive spike in fentanyl deaths.

In 2011 and 2012, fentanyl was reported in an estimated 1,600 drug overdose deaths each year.4 Between 2012 and 2014, however, fentanyl-related drug overdose deaths more than doubled each year. Experts say easy access to synthetic opioids was primarily to blame. Those battling substance use disorder were often the victim of using drugs laced with fentanyl.

fentanyl overdose deaths

For example, in 2016, roughly seven of 10 fentanyl-related deaths also involved another drug, like cocaine or heroin.5 In 2020, fentanyl-related deaths increased by 38.4% in the 12 months leading up to May 2020 compared to the same period the previous year.6

Opioid Use and Fentanyl Overdoses 

Arizona experienced the highest number of reported non-fatal opioid overdoses since 2017 during the pandemic.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, January 2020 began an unprecedented year for opioid overdoses. The year started with 389 reported cases. By August 2020, Arizona saw its highest overdose caseload in more than three years with 510 overdoses.7 By implementing a plan that called on more engagement from community health workers, reducing community stigma, and standardizing protocols for navigation from high impact points, the state hoped to drive opioid use down.8 The pandemic carried through 2020, and opioid overdose numbers determined substance use disorder outpatient treatment centers would need to be utilized to help curb the drastic effects on Arizona residents.

opioid and fentanyl use

In addition, Arizona is one of the hardest-hit states when it comes to the COVID-pandemic. Statistics reveal the state faces 213 deaths per 100,000 residents as of February 2021.9 With such a drastic impact, pandemic deaths are sure to reach those already facing mental, emotional, and physical challenges with the required isolation of the virus. The loss people experience in such a trying time only magnifies the need for a coping mechanism. Unfortunately, many are turning to opioids.

The Best Treatment For Opioid Addiction

One of the essential elements to understanding opioid addiction or dependence on fentanyl is to evaluate the patient’s mental health wellness. Many well-intended plans fail to provide in support of separating patients from their drug of choice is the treatment for dual diagnosis. Experienced medicine and mental health experts understand that placing a substance use disorder patient in a supportive environment is only half the battle for drug rehabilitation.

When a mental health condition and substance use disorder overlap, it’s crucial to have expert treatment of both conditions. Without a proper treatment plan for dual diagnosis, the patient is more likely to regress into harmful coping mechanisms. Research varies on whether mental illness develops due to substance abuse or vice versa. However, drug addiction experts agree that mental health and addiction exacerbate the other. Statistics show that among the 38.6 million Americans with mental health disorders, 18.7% use prescription opioids.10 Adults without mental health disorders run a 5% risk of using opioids. Those battling mental health disorders are significantly more likely (18.7%) to use opioids.11

getting help for opioid and fentanyl use

Arizona Opioid Addiction Treatment

Choosing the best drug rehabilitation center in Arizona should be a top priority for those dealing with substance use disorder. Opioid addiction can easily lend itself to experimenting with fentanyl use, even if unintended. Desert Cove Recovery drug counselors and mental health specialists are trained explicitly in intensive outpatient treatment so you can immediately begin to incorporate new coping strategies into your everyday life. To learn more about developing a customized treatment plan for your needs, contact the Desert Cove Recovery team today.



[1] https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/04/22/989833102/overdose-deaths-surged-in-pandemic-as-more-drugs-were-laced-with-fentanyl

[2] https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/04/22/989833102/overdose-deaths-surged-in-pandemic-as-more-drugs-were-laced-with-fentanyl

[3] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/drug-overdose-data.htm

[4] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr68/nvsr68_03-508.pdf

[5] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr68/nvsr68_03-508.pdf

[6] https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/p1218-overdose-deaths-covid-19.html

[7] https://www.azdhs.gov/prevention/womens-childrens-health/injury-prevention/opioid-prevention/opioids/index.php#dashboard

[8] https://www.azdhs.gov/documents/prevention/womens-childrens-health/injury-prevention/opioid-prevention/action-plan/2019-opioid-planning-summit-survey-results.pdf

[9] https://www.statista.com/chart/24248/covid-19-death-rate-in-us-states/

[10] https://www.jabfm.org/content/30/4/407

[11] https://www.jabfm.org/content/30/4/407