Drug overdose deaths in Colorado have been on the rise since March, coinciding with the full onset of the coronavirus pandemic, reported The Gazette in September. “By May, according to state health department data, the number of drug overdose deaths reached nearly twice the average from recent years. In May, 128 people died of overdoses in Colorado, compared to 73 in 2019, 79 in 2018, and 64 in 2017.”
Denver is on pace for a record number of fatal drug overdoses, reported Denverrite on Oct 1. “It took nine months in 2020 for Denver to match the number of fatal drug overdoses from all of last year.” Data show that the majority of drug deaths in the Colorado capital involve multiple substances, “with 60 percent of deaths involving three or more drugs and 19 percent involving five or more. The increase in deaths locally has been fueled by fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that can be up to 50 times stronger than heroin.”
Alcohol consumption has also increased significantly across the country. USA Todayreported in October about a new study showing that “American adults, particularly women, are drinking more amid the COVID-19 pandemic.” Alcohol consumption has increased by 14 percent compared with a year ago, including 17 percent for women, according to a report published in the JAMA Network Open. The study also showed a 41 percent increase in heavy drinking for women—defined as four or more drinks for women within a couple of hours and five or more for men.
Mental health and addiction professionals are not surprised to see more cases of substance use disorder (SUD) and more overdose deaths as the pandemic continues. “There are certain things that we know that happen with a stressful event like a pandemic or 9/11 or if the stock market crashes,” the president of the Mental Health Center of Denver, Dr. Carl Clark told The Gazette. “Anxiety goes up, depression goes up, suicides go up, and people’s use of substances goes up.”
Alcohol and drug misuse are strongly correlated with mood disorders like anxiety and depression. Substance use disorders are frequently the result of people under significant stress trying to self-medicate intense stress or mental health issues.
And just when SUD and mental health patients need help the most, outreach programs and treatment providers struggle to help with in-person care limited to reduce the spread of COVID-19 while states—including Colorado—struggle to find the funding for urgently needed support. “In Colorado, substance use treatment and prevention services, behavioral and mental health services saw a $20 million cut in funding as the state tax revenue plunged,” reported The Denver Post.
Harmony Foundation is a dual-diagnosis-capable facility serving clients with SUD and co-occurring mental health disorders. Clients who are diagnosed with mental health issues—such as anxiety, depression, and other trauma-related responses—will meet with our mental health and medical staff to address medication management. We work with our clients to teach them healthy coping skills to help them manage their co-occurring issues.
Despite difficult circumstances, Harmony continues to serve clients during the COVID-19 outbreak and is taking extra precautions to ensure staff and client safety. If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction do not delay seeking treatment. If you have questions about our programs, call us at 970.432.8075 to get the help needed as soon as possible