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Opioid crisis worsens amid COVID-19 pandemic

Updated: Jan. 2, 2021 at 6:24 PM CST
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - The opioid crisis has been affecting the lives of millions of Americans for quite some time, but newly released research from Mayo Clinic has revealed the crisis has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic with an increase in substance abuse and overdoses.

“It’s everywhere and people just sometimes don’t want to see it whether they’re just ignoring it or maybe they don’t know,” said Kaitlyn Nelson, Recovery Advocate Lead at House of Hope in Mankato.

The American Medical Association has reported increased opioid-related deaths in more than 40 states since the start of the pandemic, including Minnesota.

“Folks are under a significant amount of stress. COVID-19 is a stressful time. Individuals are out of work, they’re dealing with you know masks and social isolation, and so they’re unable to get their normal support network up and running. So these types of stressors in isolation we know in addiction lead to more use of an addictive substance because the addictive substance becomes more of a coping strategy for folks,” Dr. Tyler Oesterle, a psychiatrist and addiction expert at Mayo Clinic, added.

Often times, opioid addiction coincides with compromised mental and emotional wellbeing.

“It affects their mental health more than people understand,” Nelson stated.

Dr. Oesterle weighed in on a common, progressive pattern seen in Americans who struggle with opioids. Often times, individuals spiral into addiction after their medically prescribed painkillers run out. He mentioned, “When they’re off those opioids and they don’t have the help and support of providers that can help them navigate that difficult time, they’ll turn to illegal means of getting opioids.”

Dr. Oesterle said detecting addiction can be much harder than people may think. Often times it can start with simply losing interest in your old hobbies or becoming obsessive over the next dosage time.

House of Hope in Mankato has options for local residents in need of support. Nelson added, “We have an outpatient program and a residential treatment program.” Each individual who comes to House of Hope receives treatment catered directly to their needs. “We have a wonderful intake coordinator who, whether or not they’ve been in a facility, he can get them pointed in the right direction,” she mentioned.

Mayo Clinic also has virtual appointments available.

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