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Opioid crisis continues amid pandemic: Some concerned isolation could lead to more overdoses

Opioid crisis continues amid pandemic: Some concerned isolation could lead to more overdoses
Posted at 5:24 PM, Apr 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-21 10:43:02-04

As we deal with the coronavirus pandemic, the opioid crisis continues and there are concerns isolation could lead to more overdoses.

People are separated from organizations that can help or offer the antidote drug naloxone. It's forcing clinics to adapt.

“I think a lot of our patients are really nervous now in general and they want to get the treatment,” said Jess Kehoe, an addiction nurse manager at Boston Medical Center. “They want to get care.”

“Right now, we're waiving urine drug screening tests for the overwhelming majority of our patients and really relying on their history and contacts we're able to make through telemedicine and video,” said Jess Taylor, the medical director at Faster Paths to Treatment.

Kehoe and Taylor say telemedicine doesn't work for everyone and some people don't have the technology to do it, but they’re working with street outreach teams to help.

The federal government has changed rules on how medication is prescribed. People can use telemedicine for the initial evaluation for the addiction drug, buprenorphine. However, that's not the case for all medication.

“There needs to be a lot more done to improve access for methadone in general but especially now, I think the patients that would really benefit it need to have it right away,” said Kehoe.

“I’m hopeful that what we're going to learn from this is that relaxing some of the regulations has actually not caused a disaster,” said Taylor. “It's been very undramatic. The consequence is when people get a life-saving medication, nothing terrible has happened.”

If you need help with an opioid addiction, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a hotline that will connect you with treatment 24-7. The number is 1-800-662-4357.

Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering