Pandemic leads to addiction surge

BOSTON — Isolation plus drug and alcohol abuse have always been a deadly combo.

“Now you take the pandemic and you pour gasoline on the fire,” said former Rhode Island congressman Patrick Kennedy.

Kennedy has been on the frontlines as the pandemic has sent overdose deaths surging from drugs like Fentanyl, which is 50- to 100-times more potent than morphine.

“What’s important is that people realize that 80% of people that deliver that lifesaving Naloxone treatment are friends and family; they are now the EMT. In many circumstances, the person would be dead before the EMT got to their house,” Kennedy said.

A solution for some families out there is to be prepared just in case.

“If you know of a loved one who has suffered from an opioid disorder, keep a naloxone kit handy, it’s just like keeping my epi-pen handy,” Kennedy said.

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Kennedy said it’s not just some families that have been affected or touched by mental health challenges during this pandemic, it’s all of them.

“It’s not 1 in 4 Americans, it’s 4 in 4 because no one got through this pandemic without having a better appreciation for what anxiety is, depression is, fear of economic insecurity, threat of losing a job, being isolated,” Kennedy said.

As vaccines inoculate more and more of the population against COVID-19, he believes now is the chance to attack the disease of addiction that has no cure.

“This is our mental health moment. I know we are consumed with the virus, but I think this will mark the most fundamental watershed moment in terms of our society’s attitude and approach towards mental health and addiction,” Kennedy said.

He continues his call for improved access to addiction and mental health treatment with the same tenacity and resources dedicated to the other major health epidemics.

“Look at today the big advances we have made thanks to my father, Senator Kennedy, and Dana Farber years ago launching that big effort to tackle the war on cancer; now we are seeing cancer more as a chronic illness than a death sentence. We could see the same happen in our lifetime with respect to mental health and addictions, but we need to have the same urgency like we did with cancer, like we did with HIV/AIDS when those were pressing on our nation’s health,” Kennedy said.

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