ROCHESTER, Minn. - The opioid crisis has not subsided during the pandemic. Actually, the COVID-19 pandemic is creating new challenges for people suffering from addiction.
KIMT News 3 spoke to Dr. Halena Gazelka, Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist specializing in pain management and chair of the Mayo Clinic Opioid Stewardship Program, regarding the current challenges of fighting the opioid crisis. In 2020, addiction rates and overdose deaths are up. Because more people are in isolation, if a drug dose goes wrong, there may not be someone there to call 911 or give life-saving efforts.
Addicts may not have access to their typical drug dealers, leading them to use new dealers and unfamiliar drugs. More of these drugs are being laced with fentanyl, which can be deadly if used improperly. Dr. Gazelka says this was a rising problem, but now it's blown up during the pandemic.
Because clinics including Mayo temporarily stopped some services in order to care for COVID-19 patients, this left people with a lack of legitimate pain management.
"As a physician and as a pain physician, I am one of those suppliers of those legitimate prescriptions that sometimes get into the wrong hands or even in the case ofCOVID-9, we were not having as much contact with our patients and patients with legitimate pain concerns had a difficult time obtaining their medication," explains Dr. Gazelka. This can lead to people finding medication not prescribed to them or street drugs to deal with their pain.
When Mayo opened up for more procedures in May, it had a backlog of hundreds of pateints waiting for procedures to help relieve their pain and avoid the use of opioids.
In April, research led by Mayo Clinic found that more than half of Americans starting the most highly regulated opioids might be receiving inappropriate treatment.