The Impact of COVID-19 on Overdose Deaths

In January of 2020, the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the United States. Since then, the U.S. has recorded 33 million cases and more than 500,000 deaths related to COVID-19. The novel Coronavirus has not just created a worldwide pandemic, it has also exacerbated an already existing public health crisis in this country: The opiate epidemic.

Over the last two decades, overdose deaths continuously climbed every year from less than 20,000 in 1999 to around 70,000 recorded deaths in 2017. Then, the numbers finally seemed to reach a plateau in 2018 and 2019. However, in 2020, over 81,000 Americans lost their lives as a result of overdoses, which is a sharp increase compared to the 69,000 deaths recorded just 12 months prior. The 2020 figure is the highest number ever recorded. Unfortunately, the predicted numbers indicate that next year’s figures will be even higher.

On the one hand, the COVID-19 pandemic has created isolation, stress, and fear, which are known drivers of substance use behaviors. On the other hand, treatment providers and mutual help groups had to move many of their services to telehealth to follow public health recommendations. However, help is still out there. If you struggle with addiction and want help or you know someone that does, you can contact the Franklin County Alcohol, Drug, and Mental Health (ADAMH) Board at 614-224-1057 or go to