ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- While coronavirus has taken center stage for several months now, the opioid crisis hasn't gone away.
And in fact, the pandemic has worsened the opioid crisis, with an increase in suicides and drug overdoses.
"In the last eight months, working with my patients, COVID-19 has has permeated every single conversation in the context of trying to get their lives back on track with a complex medical condition that's often co-morbid with mental health illness and concerns of addiction," said Dr. Cynthia Townsend, a clinical health psychologist at Mayo Clinic.
Studies have shown that in times of economic downturn, job loss, fear and uncertainty, addiction rates go up. This results in an increase of overdoses and deaths from overdoses as well.
"I'm thinking primarily, today, of opioid and substance abuse, addiction," said Dr. Halena Gazelka, an anesthesiologist who chairs the Opioid Stewardship Program at Mayo Clinic. "And alcoholism is another major issue during this time."
"The worsening of the opioid epidemic within the pandemic is certainly a mental health crisis and a public health crisis within a crisis," Townsend said.
Another reason for an increase in overdoses right now is the drug supply has changed around the world due to pandemic, leading some people to the use of unfamiliar drugs.
"This lack of access to medical care has been a major issue in this as well," Gazelka said.
"Our human urge to rebalance any emotional turmoil, whether it's by doing something that feels good and is exciting or it's the opposite," Townsend said. "Something that makes you feel less bad, less fear, less anger, less anxiety, less depression and maybe numbing and coping."
These urges can be seen in forms such as emotional eating, online shopping or binge watching.
It can also be seen in an increase of alcohol sales, along with an increase in prescription anti-anxiety medications or prescription sleep medications and non-prescription opioids.