By Ernie Mundell
THURSDAY, Dec. 3 (HealthDay News) – Blame it on the pandemic: For people struggling with drug addiction, 2020 has triggered a surge in emergency room visits for cardiac arrest linked to drug overdoses, new research shows.
The result was based on data involving 80% of emergency medical services (EMS) “activations” across the United States. According to a team led by Joseph Friedman of the Medical Science Training Program at the University of California at Los Angeles, it has shown “a large-scale national increase in overdose-related cardiac arrests in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic “. .
Analyzing data on nearly 26 million EMS calls in 2020, they found that OD-related cardiac arrests peaked in May, when lockdowns really started to take hold in the United States.
“Peak rates [for emergency ODs] in May 2020 were more than double the baseline of 2018 and 2019, ”the researchers reported on December 3 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. Over the year as a whole, these incidents increased by 50% from 2018-19 rates.
It’s impossible to say exactly why more Americans are overdosing during the pandemic, but the surge was not unexpected, Friedman’s team noted.
“Many of the trends predicted by public health experts at the onset of the pandemic, such as an increased proportion of people using only substances, increased intoxication of the drug supply, and reduced access to treatment,” could increase mortality from each overdose case, “they said.
The total number of drug overdose-related deaths in 2020 remains to be seen, but researchers in Los Angeles note that 70,000 Americans died from fatal ODs in 2019 – many of which were linked to opioid use.
Dr Robert Glatter is an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. He said he has seen many such cases.
He was not involved in the new report, but said that “at the end of March and through April, I saw an increase in the number of patients presenting to the emergency department due to cardiac arrest linked to suspected overdoses “.
It wasn’t clear exactly why this was happening, Glatter said – could social factors, such as lockdown isolation, be at play? Or could the known effects of COVID-19 on the heart make OD-related cardiac arrest more likely?