COVID is Making Opioid Crisis Worse, But Treatment is Changing for the Better


The strain of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic collapse has taken a devastating toll on Americans with opioid misuse disorder.

One addiction doctor who was featured on a recent PBS News Hour segment noted that he has seen a 20% rise in overdoses over the past few months at the 20 treatment facilities he runs across the South.

As patients are laid off and forced out of their homes, those that were on the path to recovery are having a hard time coping with the additional strains imposed by the pandemic.

But a potential silver lining in treatment is the increased, and nearly exclusive, use of telehealth practices. Addiction counselors and physicians have noted that virtual medicine gives them access to patients they did not previously have.

Patients seeking treatment for addiction have always been faced with barriers, many of them physical. Whether it’s reliable transportation to facilities or worries about legal issues, it can be difficult for those with opioid misuse disorder to get qualified help.

Telehealth, however, allows doctors and counselors to meet patients where they are. Healthcare providers can talk to patients, diagnose issues, and even prescribe medication virtually. This shift in how addiction treatment is administered is seen by many as permanent. Even as the opioid crisis worsens, there is hope that this new tool can help going forward.

To help address the crisis, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is holding a webinar, Erasing the Stigma: Ending the Opioid Epidemic, co-hosted with the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA), on Monday, Sept. 28 at 1 p.m. ET to discuss strategies to end the addiction crisis. James Carroll, Director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, will speak at the event.

Construction workers are the most likely of all occupations to use cocaine and misuse prescription opioids, and significantly more likely to become addicted to opioids, such as prescription painkillers, than other workers in the general population. The fatal overdose rate among construction workers is six times higher than in the greater population.

It is critical that home builders recognize issues on their job sites. Opioid misuse not only affects those struggling with addiction, but can lead to safety and other issues for everyone on a site.

NAHB and its partners have created resources specifically for home builders to help them identify and address potential opioid issues on the job site. Access those resources here.

For questions about NAHB's resources on opioids, contact David Jaffe.

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