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Ann Epidemiol ; 2022 Nov 28.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2232332


BACKGROUND: During the COVID-19 pandemic, social and economic disruption such as social isolation, job and income losses, and increased psychological distress, may have contributed to the increase in drug-overdose mortality. This study aims to measure the impact of the pandemic on monthly trends in drug-overdose mortality in the United States. METHODS: We used the 2018-2020 final and 2021 provisional monthly deaths from the National Vital Statistics System and monthly population estimates from the Census Bureau to compute monthly mortality rates by age, sex, and race/ethnicity. We use log-linear regression models to estimate monthly percent increases in mortality rates from January 2018 through November 2021. RESULTS: The age-adjusted drug-overdose mortality rate among individuals aged ≥15 years increased by 30% between 2019 (70,459 deaths) and 2020 (91,536 deaths). During January 2018-November 2021, the monthly drug-overdose mortality rate increased by 2.05% per month for Blacks, 2.25% for American Indians/Alaska Natives, 1.96% for Hispanics, 1.33% for Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 0.96% for non-Hispanic Whites. Average monthly increases in mortality were most marked among those aged 15-24 and 35-44 years. CONCLUSIONS: The COVID-19 pandemic had a substantial impact on the rising trends in drug-overdose mortality during the peak months in 2020 and 2021.

Scand J Public Health ; : 14034948221075025, 2022 Feb 04.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2230098


INTRODUCTION: Little international comparative work exists describing pandemic-related spikes in overdose and related implications for drug and public health policy. We compared increases in overdose deaths during the pandemic in Norway and the United States, two countries in the top 10 for per-capita overdose mortality, yet with very different approaches to the pandemic, healthcare and drug policy. METHODS: We examined monthly overdoses in 2020 versus baseline rates (the monthly average across 2017-2019). We compared excess overdose mortality to shifts in human mobility and social interaction, measured using cellphone-based mobility data, an indicator of the societal response to the pandemic. RESULTS: Both the US and Norway saw large magnitude exacerbations in overdose mortality during the pandemic-related lockdowns, reaching 46.8% and 57.0% above baseline, respectively. Maximum increases occurred 2-3 months after peak reductions in mobility, suggesting lagged mechanisms. While overdose mortality returned to baseline relatively quickly in Norway, rates remained elevated in the US to the end of 2020. CONCLUSIONS: Spikes in overdose mortality in both contexts may relate to disruptions in healthcare access and the drug supply becoming more potent. Norway's quicker return to baseline may reflect more robust access to harm reduction and addiction-related healthcare services. Nevertheless, it is notable that even in Norway - with universal access to high-quality services, low COVID-19 rates, and a highly effective public health infrastructure - a greater than 50% spike in overdose deaths was still seen at the onset of lockdown measures. This may have important implications for future pandemic and disaster planning.