The Impacts of COVID-19 Policy Responses for Opioid Addiction in Pennsylvania

Authors: Ruchi Patel, The Pennsylvania State University, Andrea Rishworth, The Pennsylvania State University, Brian King*, Pennsylvania State University
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, Population Geography
Keywords: opioid, opioid abuse, COVID-19, Pennsylvania
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 8
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The U.S. opioid epidemic and COVID-19 pandemic are two of the most pressing societal challenges of the 21st century. The use and abuse of opioids spans several decades with varied and significant impacts that have expanded into a national health crisis. Unfortunately, recent advances in mitigating the opioid epidemic have encountered a second public health crisis in the form of COVID-19 that is further compounding patterns of opioid abuse while transforming the landscapes of addiction and treatment. While recent commentaries have provided useful policy recommendations since the start of the pandemic, few empirical studies have been conducted on the intersection of COVID-19 policy responses and patterns of opioid abuse. In this paper, we present the findings from a study examining opioid overdoses prior to, and following, the state-mandated stay-at-home order that begin on April 1, 2020 in the state of Pennsylvania. The findings from this study demonstrate that the initiation of the state-mandated stay-at-home order resulted in a statistically-significant increase in opioid overdoses among men, with particular impacts for those 30-39 and 40-49 years of age. White and Black members of the population showed the highest number of incidents. This study demonstrates that efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 have unintended consequences for those struggling with addiction. Future efforts to manage COVID-19 need to support public health agencies providing treatment for addiction.

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