Covid-19 is undoing a decade of progress on the opioid epidemic

For the past few months, US public health specialists, policymakers, the general public have had one thing in mind: Covid-19. All health resources have been focused on the pandemic, from government funding to pharmaceutical development to broader medical research.

But only months ago, there was another epidemic at the center of the national debate. Opioid addiction disorder, which caused nearly 70,000 deaths in 2018 alone, the most recent year with reliable data, and nearly 800,000 fatalities in the previous decades.

As the opioid epidemic was forced to cede priority to the more immediate crisis of Covid-19, many of the resources devoted to treatment and research of opioid abuse were curtailed or put on pause. Combined with the interruption of outpatient services in hospitals and clinics, and socioeconomic changes that can lead to relapse, has experts worried the progress made so far on tackling the opioid crisis may be jeopardized.

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