Isolation drives up opioid addiction

Written by on February 9, 2021

 Isolation drives up opioid addiction

By Hayden Mitman

February 9, 2021

Photo by Julie Viken from Pexels

The social isolation that comes with the coronavirus pandemic is hard on everyone. Local health officials say it’s even harder for those struggling with opioid addiction. Lehigh County is addressing the epidemic unfolding in the shadow of the coronavirus. 

Listen to the story.

Joe Martellucci heads Lehigh County’s Drug and Alcohol Agency. He says opioid use – and overdoses – have been on the rise throughout the pandemic. 

“At this point, I don’t think there’s any way it’s gone down. I can only think it’s gone up. In our world, isolation is a killer,” Martellucci says. 

Final 2020 data isn’t in yet, but Martellucci says that by looking at how many people are getting addiction assessments, it’s clear there’s a problem.

“From 2019 to 2020, we saw a 34% decrease for people coming in to get an assessment for drug and alcohol treatment, so that really hurt,” he says. 

The Morning Call recently reported that overdose deaths are up 19% throughout the region. 

As a recovery specialist, Erica Panella has seen a rise in overdose fatalities first hand.  

“Personally, I’ve lost a lot of really close friends in the last few months. It just makes me more angry and it drives me harder,” Panella says.  

Lehigh County expects to open two new recovery centers in Allentown in March to improve outreach and address opioid use. 

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