Sep 15, 2020 - Health

NIH director: Access to opioid addiction treatment is lagging in the pandemic

A screenshot of Axios' Caitlin Owens speaking with Dr. Linda Porter
Axios' Caitlin Owens and Linda Porter, director of the Office of Pain Policy at the National Institutes of Health.

Opioid overdoses have spiked during the coronavirus pandemic, Linda Porter, director of the Office of Pain Policy at the National Institutes of Health, said on Tuesday during an Axios virtual event.

What's happening: People with opioid-use disorder have had "an extremely difficult time" getting medical treatment or behavioral therapy during the pandemic, Porter said.

  • More than 70% of residential treatment programs in the U.S. don’t offer the medical standard of care for opioid addiction, Axios' Marisa Fernandez reports.
  • Those with opioid-use disorder are more vulnerable to the coronavirus.

What they're saying: "Since COVID started, we've been collecting data, the government, showing that the overdose rates have really spiked. This is either through prescription opioids, but also through illicit drugs. So, fentanyl, amphetamines," she said.

  • "It's harder for them to get the rehabilitation they need, it's harder for them because there may be a loss of jobs, a loss of income. So all these things begin to contribute to their opioid use disorder."

One level deeper: Chronic pain can permeate all aspects of daily life, Arthritis Foundation CEO Ann Palmer said at the same Axios virtual event.

  • "Pain prevents people from participating in life, may lead to a more sedentary lifestyle and the comorbidities associated with that, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure. It certainly leads to sleeplessness, and thus fatigue.
  • "And if you're not sleeping well and you're tired, then your body's ability to heal is compromised so that's an issue. And additionally, people feel isolated. They feel like they can't participate in life the way they'd like to. And this can lead to depression, and anxiety, and very serious complications."
Go deeper