Sep 30, 2021 - Politics

Sen. Capito: COVID pandemic "put the accelerator" on opioid addiction

Shelley Moore Capito interviewed by Sam Baker

Photo: Axios

The COVID-19 pandemic worsened the nation's opioid crisis but brought important lessons on new treatment methods and the importance of public education campaigns, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) explained during an Axios virtual event on Thursday.

Why it matters: The pandemic "put the accelerator" on opioid addiction and overdoses nationwide because of people's increased isolation and disrupted treatment, Capito said.

  • In her state of West Virginia, opioid-related deaths shot up from roughly 800 or 900 deaths to over 1,200, Capito added.
  • "The the numbers are staggering. The numbers of overdoses have gone way back up in the communities that were starting to see them go down, and so the families affected are going way up," Capito said.

The big picture: The pandemic disrupted many of the in-person intervention methods that are crucial to opioid treatment, and returning to these is vital. But the pandemic also opened up doors that could prove instructive, Capito said.

  • "Telemedicine can have great promise," Capito said.
  • "I think we we need to find a way to make sure that we fortify telemedicine so that it can work" in conjunction with more high-contact, in-person intervention methods that have been successful in the past, she added.
  • "I am optimistic that we can deal with this better, because I think what we saw with the COVID reaction is what we need to be doing, and we are beginning to do much more effectively on the addiction side—and that's prevention and education."
  • "I do think that more emphasis at that point of the crisis is where we really need — have learned from COVID — would really be to our benefit."

Watch the full event here.

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