The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is projected to be the largest mass casualty event in the United States. Before the coronavirus, attention was on the opioid epidemic that was killing 130 people per day. Now, opioid use disorder (OUD) is at risk of being marginalized by the larger disease. This is cause for concern because people suffering from opioid use disorder are at higher risk from the COVID-19 in the following ways:
- Epidemics adversely affect socially disadvantaged persons with medical and psychiatric conditions, which can lead to more opioid abuse and potential overdoses.
- Staying home and social distancing is the safer way to keep from getting and spreading the coronavirus, but doing so can increase feelings of anxiety and depression for those in recovery. Plus, isolation is a problem for those who need face-to-face counseling or do well in a group counseling environment and need interaction.
- COVID-19 attacks the lungs and could be an especially dangerous threat to people with opioid use disorder (OUD)
- People with a history of drug and alcohol use may be more susceptible to COVID-19 because they are likely to have weaker immune systems.
- Opioid users are often smokers who can have high rates of chronic lung disease, which can put them at higher risk for respiratory complications from the virus.
- Withdrawal symptoms can mask some of the symptoms of COVID-19. Some people might not take the symptoms seriously because they think it’s just withdrawal, and they’ve experienced it before.
Fortunately, the D.E.A. was quick to act with the following update to their policies regarding telemedicine and prescriptions paving the way for clinics like NuHope to continue seeing their patients remotely as well as new patients.
“The D.E.A. has announced that practitioners may prescribe controlled substances to patients using telemedicine without first conducting an in-person evaluation during this public health emergency under 21 U.S.C. 802(54)(D).1 Today, D.E.A. notes that practitioners have further flexibility during the nationwide public health emergency to prescribe buprenorphine to new and existing patients with OUD via telephone by otherwise authorized practitioners without requiring such practitioners to first conduct an examination of the patient in person or via telemedicine.”
These are trying times, but we are committed to leading the way in new virtual and telemedicine treatments for our patients. If you know someone who needs help managing their pain or prescriptions, call us at 833.210.4673. We can help.