Opioid Deaths Increasing Across The Country As Pandemic Continues

By Dr. John Rosa

It’s been 3 months since the U.S. went into shelter-in-place mode due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. My immediate concern was how those in recovery from opioid use would fare without being able to have face-to-face substance-abuse treatment. And, now, the numbers are beginning to surface.


According to a report from the American Medical Association, they are greatly concerned “by an increasing number of reports from national, state and local media suggesting increases in opioid-related mortality – particularly from illicitly manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analogs. At least 30 states have reported increases in opioid-related mortality…” https://www.ama-assn.org/system/files/2020-06/issue-brief-increases-in-opioid-related-overdose.pdf


Another recent article out of Martinsburg, WV, reports that overdose deaths in the tri-state area are outpacing COVID-19 related deaths. In Erie County New York, health authorities report that there has not been an increase in opioid use locally since the pandemic, but because of social isolation, more people are using alone, making it less likely someone is around to help them in the event they overdose. Jacksonville, Florida has seen a 20% increase in overdose calls from February to March.


The national public health group, Well Being Trust, suggests as many as 75,000 people could die during the pandemic due to drug overdose. According to CNN, “The group is sounding the alarm that the growing unemployment crisis, economic downturns and stress caused by isolation and lack of a definitive end date for the pandemic could significantly increase so-called “deaths of despair” unless local, state and federal authorities take action.” https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/08/health/coronavirus-deaths-of-despair/index.html


Integrative Medicine and Chiropractic clinics have been open and available to treat people in pain throughout the pandemic. However, in the past two weeks, in addition to COVID-19, a new epidemic has burst onto the scene that is sure to have serious consequences for those already struggling with addiction, mental and emotional health issues. It is the systemic virus of racism, inequality and injustice which has not only contributed to the use and abuse of opioids but is visible in all aspects of healthcare. Drug addiction, isolation and social injustice are massive contributors to chronic stress feeding many ails as we face today. Triple epidemics have surfaced simultaneously. It seems clear that a seismic change in the way we address the problems in this country is necessary.







The Loneliness Of Addiction Magnified During COVID19 Pandemic

By Dr. John Rosa

As the COVID19 pandemic continues with no ending point in sight, getting help for drug addiction is more important than ever. Unfortunately help for addicts is not readily available with the closure of clinics for medication assisted treatments and well as alternatives for chronic pain management. And social distancing requirements make it even more difficult on addicts


This lack of help and human interaction for people in recovery from drug addiction is creating the perfect environment for relapse. At least those who suffer from Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) still have access to alcohol since liquor stores have been deemed essential businesses in most states. In addition there is very limited medical treatment for AUD and keeping people out of hospitals is important.  This is one important reason why liquor stores have been deemed essential. There are more than 15 million people in the U.S. who have AUD and it’s imperative they have access to their substance of choice.


Without an equivalent method of help for drug addiction, the rate of relapse and overdoses will put an even greater demand on hospitals that are already overburdened with COVID19 patients.


The Rat Park Experiment Proves How Loneliness Fuels Addiction

Drug addiction is a disease. It is a disease caused by loneliness, fear and uncertainty. To help anyone who may be unfamiliar with how loneliness fuels addiction, I am posting the results of a famous experiment called The Rat Park Experiment as posted on. Psychcentral.com.


“One of the most infamous drug experiments that was proliferated during the “War on Drugs” era in the United States was the rat experiment. Rats were placed in a cage containing a feeder bottle of water laced with cocaine and, unsurprisingly, they consumed the cocaine in enormous quantities until they died. This experiment supposedly displayed why even just trying an illicit substance could get you hooked, but it didn’t satisfy Bruce Alexander, a researcher at Simon Fraser University.”


“He recreated the experiment and tweaked one important variable: the cage. In the original experiment, the rats were in a small cage by themselves with no company, no space, and no exercise toys to play with. In Bruce’s new experiment, he constructed Rat Park, filled with everything a rat could desire from tunnels and turn wheels to other rats to play with. This time around, none of the rats got hooked on the drug laced water, which this time was a morphine drip. Alexander’s main point was that it wasn’t necessarily the drug that created addicts, but the cage they were trapped in that drove them to become addicts. When a rat had plenty of things to do, space to be free, and other rats to socialize with, it was far less likely to develop a crippling addiction.”



Efforts Must Be Made To Keep Addicts Safe From Withdrawal, Relapse And Overdose

I imagine by now regular folks who are not addicted to drugs or alcohol are beginning to feel the pressure of social isolation. Some of these people may decide to have a drink. Some may even experiment with drugs. This challenging time is helping many people understand how easy it is to fall prey to addiction during times of uncertainty, fear and loneliness. If you have a loved one who is addicted to drugs, please reach out as often as you can to help them get through this challenging time. Explore the use of digital platforms to have virtual visits if possible. This is not an easy time for anyone and it is particularly difficult for anyone addicted to opioids, alcohol and drugs of any kind.

The Effect Of COVID19 Pandemic On The Opioid Epidemic

By Dr. John Rosa


We’re in the midst of a global pandemic.

The way a nation takes care of all of its citizens is a reflection of that nation’s evolution as human beings. So far, here in the U.S. we don’t get a great score as a global pandemic adds to a score of other challenges.

We, as a nation have been slogging through an opioid epidemic since the early 1990s that was brought on by the very people who are supposed to be most concerned about the health and well-being of their fellow humans. Efforts to stop the blatant over prescribing of addictive drugs has been slow and in some medical specialties not at all. Even today, if you go to the doctor or even the dentist for a simple ache or pain, the first thing most do is reach for their prescription pad to give you pain killers. The point is, we could be doing a lot more.

Now, here we are in the midst of a virulent global pandemic. And, the big deal about this is that every single person is at risk. This is a reality that cannot be ignored. No one can be judged as being weak or an addict if they get the Coronavirus. Unlike the people who became addicted to a drug that the medical establishment knew was highly addictive.

Social Isolation More Difficult For Those In Recovery

Most of us humans are by nature social creatures. During the social distancing and self-isolation required during the COVID19 pandemic, many people will be able to handle the lack of socializing for a while. We have technology that allows us to visit with our friends and loved ones. However, while most of us prepare to hunker down at home and self-isolate with our favorite foods and healthy supplies of toilet paper, there is a segment of the population that will have a very difficult time with social isolation.

People who are addicted to opioids, alcohol and other drugs and have been attending 12-Step programs will no longer be able to meet and talk about their challenges. For these people, isolation actually feeds addiction. Patients that rely on Chiropractic, physical therapy and acupuncture for pain control are finding it hard to find clinics that haven’t shut their doors. Relapses are already being reported at a higher rate in just the last few weeks.

A Global Pandemic On Top Of An Opioid Epidemic

We are in a strange, historic time and critically important time. Who knows how this situation is going to evolve? Lives will continue to be lost as a result of both COVID19 and drug overdoses. It is thought that the COVID19 virus will eventually stop spreading, as viruses do. Though we don’t know how long it will take for it to run its course. However, the opioid epidemic will still be with us and unfortunately the likelihood is that it could be more virulent than ever.

I pray for the safety and well-being of everyone during these unprecedented times. My heart goes out to all those who have fallen due to COVID19 and to their families. I pray for the safety of all those on the front lines who serve in the hospitals, the police and other public servants, supermarkets and other essential services personnel. I thank you for your courageous service.

And I pray for all of those who continue to suffer the pain of addiction. Please stay well and safe.