Tag: addiction

Teens Have Triple the Risk of Developing Cannabis Addiction

Cannabis plants
Photo by Harrison Haines on Pexels

Adolescents have more than three times the risk of developing a cannabis addiction than adults, although they may only have the same risk of other mental health problems related to the drug, according to a new study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

The study, led by King’s College London and University College London, found that adolescent cannabis users had the same odds for higher levels of subclinical depression or anxiety than adults cannabis users, nor were they more vulnerable than adult users to cannabis’s associations with psychotic-like symptoms.

These findings build on a separate study by the same team that found adolescents were not more vulnerable to associations between chronic cannabis use and cognitive impairment.

Lead author Dr Will Lawn said: “There is a lot of concern about how the developing teenage brain might be more vulnerable to the long-term effects of cannabis, but we did not find evidence to support this general claim.

“Cannabis addiction is a real issue that teenagers should be aware of, as they appear to be much more vulnerable to it than adults.

“On the other hand, the impact that cannabis use has during adolescence on cognitive performance or on depression and anxiety may be weaker than hypothesised.

“But we also replicated previous work that if someone becomes addicted to cannabis, that may increase the severity of subclinical mental health symptoms. Given adolescents are also at a greater risk of experiencing difficulties with mental health than adults, they should be proactively discouraged from regular cannabis use.”

The findings in both papers come from the CannTeen study, which is comparing the effects of regular cannabis use among adolescents and adults, while also comparing to age-matched controls (non-users of cannabis), a completely novel design.

The study involved 274 participants, including 76 adolescents (aged 16–17) who used cannabis one to seven days per week, alongside similar numbers of adult (aged 26–29) users, and teenage and adult control (comparison) participants, who all reported their cannabis use over the last 12 weeks and responded to mental health questionnaires. The cannabis users in the study, on average, used it four times per week. The adolescent and adult users were also carefully matched on gender, ethnicity, and type and strength of cannabis.

The researchers found that adolescent cannabis users were three and a half times as likely to develop severe ‘cannabis use disorder’ (ie addiction) than adult users, a finding which is in line with previous studies. Cannabis use disorder is defined by symptoms such as cravings; cannabis use contributing to failures in school or work; heightened tolerance; withdrawal; interpersonal problems caused by or exacerbated by cannabis use; or intending to cut back without success. Oof the teenage cannabis users studied, 50% had six or more cannabis use disorder symptoms, qualifying as severe cannabis use disorder.

Among people of any age, previous studies have found that roughly 9–22% of people who try the drug develop cannabis use disorder, and that risk is higher for people who tried it at a younger age, a finding which has now been robustly replicated.

The researchers say that adolescents might be more vulnerable to cannabis addiction because of factors such as increased disruption to relationships with parents and teachers, a hyper-plastic (malleable) brain and developing endocannabinoid system (the part of the nervous system that THC in cannabis acts upon), and an evolving sense of identity and shifting social life.

Adolescent users had greater odds than adult users or adolescent non-users of developing psychotic-like symptoms, but analysis showed that this is because all adolescents, and all cannabis users, are more likely to newly develop psychotic-like symptoms, rather than a different effect of cannabis for teenagers than adults. Thus, there was no interaction between cannabis use and being an adolescent. The researchers say this fits in with prior evidence that cannabis use may increase the likelihood of developing a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia, but they warn their study did not investigate the risk of clinical psychosis or schizophrenia.

The researchers found that neither teenage nor adult cannabis users were more likely to develop depressive or anxiety symptoms than non-users. Only the adolescents that have severe cannabis use disorder had worse mental health symptoms, but the researchers caution that the small sample size for this group limits their confidence in this finding.

The separate study found that cannabis users were no more likely to have impaired working memory or impulsivity. Cannabis users were more likely to have poor verbal memory (remembering things said to you); this effect was the same in adults and teenagers, so again there was no adolescent vulnerability. However, the researchers caution that cannabis use could impact school performance during a key developmental stage of life.

The researchers caution that these findings were cross-sectional (only looking at one time point), and that longitudinal analyses of how their participants changed over time are ongoing.

Senior author Professor Val Curran (UCL Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit, UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) said: “Our findings suggest that schools should be teaching pupils more about the risk of addiction to cannabis, which has been neglected in drugs education. Becoming addicted to cannabis is a serious problem in itself, but it can also increase the likelihood of other mental health problems. Teenagers should therefore be informed of their greater risk of addiction.”

Source: King’s College London

Single Pathway Controls Drug Withdrawal-induced Anxiety

Depression, young man
Source: Andrew Neel on Unsplash

New research published today in Cell Reports finds that drug withdrawal-induced anxiety and return to drug seeking behaviours are controlled by a single pathway in the brain and are centred on dopamine cells, which are normally associated with reward behaviours.

Addiction occurs in phases: the initial drug exposures are rewarding, and then repeated administration leads to tolerance or sensitisation to the drug’s effects, with withdrawal leading to anxiety and a negative affective state, which, in turn, contributes to a return to drug taking or seeking.

“In order to prevent relapse among drug users, specifically cocaine users, we need to understand the factors in the brain that contribute to drug seeking behaviours and the vulnerability to relapse,” said Kevin Beier, PhD, assistant professor of physiology and biophysics from the University of California, Irvine. “In this study, we identified a brain circuit that is responsible for drug withdrawal-induced anxiety as well as relapse-related behaviour, along with the identification of a potential target for therapeutic interventions.”

The negative affective state induced by drug withdrawal is a critical factor in the relapse of drug users.

“Both the drug withdrawal-induced anxiety and reinstatement of drug seeking are controlled by a single pathway centred around dopamine cells in the ventral midbrain,” explained Dr Beier. “That a single pathway controls both sets of behavioural changes may help to explain many addiction-related behavioural phenomena. Importantly, it links them both directly to dopamine, which is more typically linked to reward-related behaviours.”

While midbrain dopamine circuits are central to motivated behaviours, just how experience modifies these circuits to facilitate subsequent behavioural adaptations is not well understood. This study demonstrates the selective role of a ventral tegmental area dopamine projection to the amygdala for cocaine induced anxiety, but not for cocaine reward or sensitisation. Silencing this projection prevents development of anxiety during protracted withdrawal after cocaine use.

According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, there are roughly 70 000 drug overdoses each year in the United States. In 2017, nearly one in five drug overdose deaths was cocaine-related, with the highest rate of cocaine-related overdoses and deaths occurring among non-Hispanic black populations. Between 2012 and 2018, the rate of cocaine-related overdose deaths increased from 1.4 to 4.5%. The American Addiction Centers state recent drug relapse statistics show that more than 85% of individuals relapse and return to drug use within a year following treatment.

Source: University of California – Irvine

Glutamate and Dopamine Interact in Addiction

Image source: Pixabay

Drug addiction is a psychiatric disorder for which no pharmacological treatment with long-term efficacy currently exists: all addictive substances have in common the fact that they raise concentrations of the neurotransmitter dopamine within brain regions forming the neural reward circuit.

This increase in dopamine levels results in long-lasting alteration of signal transmission that is dependent on another neurotransmitter, glutamate, which causes addictive behaviours. Through a new study in mice and humans, an international team including scientists from the CNRS, INRAE, the CEA, Sorbonne University, Paris-Saclay University, the University of Bordeaux, and Université Côte d’Azur has uncovered, the molecular bases of this deleterious interplay between dopamine and glutamate.

The researchers’ findings demonstrate that the inhibition of interactions between dopamine and glutamate receptors prevents pathological behaviours provoked by cocaine in mice, without altering natural reward processing. Their findings, published in Science Advances, will help pave the way for the development of new therapeutic strategies to treat addiction, and a wider spectrum of psychiatric disorders.

Source: CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange)

Studies Find Females More Susceptible To Addiction

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Several new studies focusing on sex differences in pain and addiction suggest that females could be more susceptible to drug addiction and addiction-like behaviours than males. Researchers also investigated how sleep deprivation affected the likelihood of relapse, partly driven by hormone differences in females and males. The studies will be presented at the American Physiological Society’s seventh conference on New Trends in Sex and Gender Medicine from 19 to 22 October.

This study used a rat model to investigate the connection between opioid abstinence and persistent sleep loss and its impact on the body’s central stress response system. Researchers specifically found persistent sleep disruption may cause or perpetuate abnormalities in their hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis. These abnormalities increase the risk of vulnerability to relapse during oxycodone abstinence in some individuals. Scientists are now working to identify susceptibility factors that play a role in boosting the risk of relapse. Adequate sleep may be critical for successful recovery from opioid addiction.

Researchers conducting this study explored how the opioid epidemic in the US continues and evolved during the ongoing COVID pandemic. Women have made up the majority of those prescribed opioids for pain treatment. Prescribed opioids for pain management became the primary conduit to abuse and addiction for women, and the researchers found that mitigations in opioid prescriptions have been followed by increases in the use of other substances, such as heroin and fentanyl, in both men and women. While the rate of opioid use and overdose is higher in men, women have a higher rate of overdose death. Understanding how opioid use and addiction differ in their effect on men and women is key to ending the epidemic.

A rat model was also used to evaluate sex differences in vulnerability to addiction. Their results indicate activation of a specific subset of receptors for oestrogens enhances established cocaine-seeking behaviors in female rats. In male rats, the preference for cocaine under the same circumstances was reduced, involving the area of the brain linked to compulsive behaviours. Females show a greater response than males to stimulants such as amphetamine and cocaine in part due to the gonadal hormone oestradiol, which is one of the three forms of oestrogen. The hope is these results will lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms of addiction-related behaviors and the development of sex-specific treatments for addiction.

Source: American Physiological Society

High-dose Buprenorphine in ED Could Improve Opioid Abuse Outcomes

Photo by Mat Napo on Unsplash
Photo by Mat Napo on Unsplash

High-dose buprenorphine therapy, provided under emergency department care, is safe and well tolerated in people with opioid use disorder experiencing opioid withdrawal symptoms, according to a study supported by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Lower doses of buprenorphine, a medication approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat opioid use disorder, are the current standard of care. Higher doses, however, could extend the period of withdrawal relief for people after being discharged from the emergency department that could help them better seek care. 

“Emergency departments are at the front lines of treating people with opioid use disorder and helping them overcome barriers to recovery such as withdrawal,” said Nora D Volkow, MD, director of NIDA. “Providing buprenorphine in emergency departments presents an opportunity to expand access to treatment, especially for underserved populations, by supplementing urgent care with a bridge to outpatient services that may ultimately improve long-term outcomes.”

Presently, some emergency departments already administer higher buprenorphine doses to treat withdrawal and opioid use disorder. They do this as a response to the growing potency in illicit opioid drug supplies and delays in access to follow-up care, but this practice has not been evaluated previously.

Researchers used a retrospective chart review to analyse data from electronic health records documenting 579 emergency department visits at the Alameda Health System Highland Hospital in California, made by 391 adults with opioid use disorder in 2018. Many patients were from vulnerable populations, with 23% experiencing homelessness and 41% having a psychiatric disorder.

In 63% of cases, clinicians administered more than the standard upper limit of 12 mg of sublingual buprenorphine during emergency department induction, and in 23% of cases, patients were given 28 mg or more. Higher doses of buprenorphine were seen to be safe and tolerable, and there were no reports of respiratory problems or drowsiness among those given the higher doses. The few serious adverse events that occurred were determined to be unrelated to high-dose buprenorphine therapy.

Studies have shown that initiating buprenorphine in emergency departments improves engagement in treatment and is cost effective, but barriers to the medication’s use in the US persist, with restrictions on what training is required, how much can be administered and for how long. Recent changes to prescribing guidelines by the US Department of Health and Human Services now let some clinicians treating up to 30 patients to prescribe buprenorphine without the previous training and services criteria.

“Once discharged, many people have difficulty linking to follow-up medical care,” explained study leader Andrew A Herring, MD, of Highland Hospital Department of Emergency Medicine. “Adjusting the timing and dosage of buprenorphine in the emergency department, along with resources and counseling aimed at facilitating the transition to outpatient services, may provide the momentum needed to access continuing care.”

“This study enhances the evidence we know about emergency-department buprenorphine induction, and could be a gamechanger, particularly for vulnerable populations who would likely benefit from a rapid induction at the time of the visit,” said study author Gail D’Onofrio, MD, of Yale University. Dr D’Onofrio published the original studies on emergency department-initiated buprenorphine, as well as recent consensus recommendations on the emergency department treatment of opioid use disorder.
The researchers noted that their findings need confirmation in other emergency departments. Nevertheless, this study suggests that with proper support and training, emergency medicine providers may safely and effectively initiate high-dose buprenorphine therapy.

Source: NIH

Journal information: JAMA Network Open (2021). DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.17128

No Smoking Uptick in COVID Pandemic – Unlike Other Disasters

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Unlike other population-level stressful events such as natural disasters, COVID has not resulted in a net increase in smoking, according to a new study from the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Project, at the University of Waterloo.

However, the researchers also found that although nearly half of smokers reported that COVID caused them to consider quitting, the vast majority of smokers did not change their smoking habits during the early phase of the COVID pandemic.

Stress is known to be a significant risk factor for smoking, especially in females. The study surveyed 6870 smokers and vapers in  Australia, Canada, England, and the United States between April and June 2020. The team investigated the association between COVID and thoughts about quitting smoking, changes in smoking, and factors related to positive changes such as attempting to quit or reducing smoking.

Only 1.1 per cent of smokers in the four countries attempted to quit and 14.2 percent reduced smoking, but this was offset by the 14.6 percent who increased smoking, with 70.2 percent reported no change.

“It is important to note that population-level stressful events, such as 9/11 and natural disasters, have often led to increased smoking,” said Geoffrey Fong, professor of psychology at Waterloo and principal investigator of the ITC Project. “So, our findings that there was no net increase in smoking in response to COVID may actually represent a positive result for public health.”

The study found that those who considered quitting smoking due to COVID were mostly females, ethnic minorities, those under financial stress, current vapers, less dependent smokers, those with greater concern about personal susceptibility of infection, and those who believed COVID is more severe for smokers.

According to study co-author Fong, this latter finding may explain why a significant uptick in smoking was seen in the COVID pandemic, compared to past tragedies.

“Unlike other population stressors such as earthquakes, which are unrelated to smoking, COVID severity is indeed linked to smoking,” Fong said. “Public health officials have mentioned the link as yet another reason for smokers to quit, and over 80 percent of smokers across the four countries believed that smoking made COVID more severe. And this led to the lack of an increase in smoking, unlike what we have seen after other tragedies.”

Source: EurekAlert!

Journal information: Gravely, S., et al. (2021) Smokers’ cognitive and behavioural reactions during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic: Findings from the 2020 ITC Four Country Smoking and Vaping Survey. PLOS ONE. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0252427.

New Insights into Genetic Risk for Nicotine Dependence

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A new study has developed a new model for examining the genetic risk for nicotine dependence. 

Tobacco smoking carries undeniable health risks, and being unable to quit or moderate smoking draws out the problem. While some people may be casual smokers and can easily quit, others become heavy smokers who struggle to quit. This risk for nicotine dependence comes from a complex mix of environmental, behavioural, and genetic factors.

Twins studies indicate that 40 to 70 percent of the risk factors are heritable. Until recently, however, studies have only explained about 1 percent of the observed variation in liability to nicotine dependence, using a genetic score based on how many cigarettes a person smokes per day.

The new study led by psychologists at Emory University leveraged genome-wide association studies for a range of different traits and disorders correlated with nicotine dependence and explained 3.6 percent of the variation in nicotine dependence. The findings were reported in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

Higher polygenetic scores for a risk for schizophrenia, depression, neuroticism, self-reported risk-taking, a high body mass index, alcohol use disorder, along with more cigarettes smoked a day were all indicators of a higher risk for nicotine dependence, the researchers found. Meanwhile, the results showed that polygenetic scores associated with higher education attainment lowered the risk for nicotine dependence.

Senior author Rohan Palmer, assistant professor, Behavioral Genetics of Addiction Laboratory, Emory University explained: “If you look at the joint effect of all of these characteristics, our model accounts for nearly 4 percent of the variation in nicotine dependence, or nearly four times as much as what we learn when relying solely on a genetic index for the number of cigarettes someone smokes daily,”

“What we’re finding,” Prof Palmer added, “is that to better leverage genetic information, we need to go beyond individual human traits and disorders and think about how risk for different behaviors and traits are interrelated. This broader approach can give us a much better measure for whether someone is at risk for a mental disorder, such as nicotine dependence.”

“All of the traits and diseases we looked at are polygenic, involving multiple genes,” added first author Victoria Risner, who did the work as an Emory undergraduate majoring in neuroscience and behavioural biology. “That means that millions of genetic variants likely go into a complete picture for all of the heritable risks for nicotine dependence.”

The researchers hope that others will build on their multi-trait, polygenetic model and continue to boost the understanding of the risk for such complex disorders. “The more we learn, the closer we can get to one day having a genetic test that clinicians can use to inform their assessment of someone’s risk for nicotine dependence,” Prof Palmer said.

Though smoking hazards are well known, about 14 percent of Americans use tobacco daily. Around half a million people die each year in the US from smoking or exposure to smoke, and another 16 million have serious illnesses caused by tobacco use, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and pulmonary disease. While chemicals produced during smoking and vaping cause the health impacts, nicotine hooks people on these habits.

Risner worked on this paper for her Honours thesis. “Nicotine dependence was interesting to me because the vaping scene was just arriving while I was an undergraduate,” she says. “I saw some of my own friends who were into vaping quickly becoming dependent on it, while some others who were using the same products didn’t. I was curious about the genetic underpinnings of this difference.” Risner is now in medical school at University of North Carolina.

The work made use of genome-wide association studies for a range of traits and disorders. The researchers then sought matching variants in genetic data from a nationally representative sample of Americans with nicotine dependence. Polygenetic scores for the different traits and disorders either raised or lowered the risk for that dependence. The strongest predictors were number of cigarettes smoked per day, self-perceived risk-taking, and educational attainment.

The multi-variant, polygenetic model offers a path forward. For instance, a clearer picture of heritability for nicotine dependence, may be gained by adding more risk associations to the model (such as nicotine metabolism) and clusters of polygenic traits (such as anxiety along with neuroticism).

“As we continue to zero in on who is most at risk for becoming nicotine dependent, and what inter-related factors, whether genetic or environmental, may raise their risk, that could help determine what intervention might work best for an individual,” Prof Palmer said.

“Just a few decades ago, it was not well understood that nicotine dependence could have a genetic component,” Risner said. “Genetic studies may help reduce some of the stigma society has against substance use disorders, while also making treatment more accessible.”

Source: Emory Health Sciences

Journal information: Risner, V A., et al. (2021) Multi-Polygenic Analysis of Nicotine Dependence in Individuals of European Ancestry. Nicotine & Tobacco Research. doi.org/10.1093/ntr/ntab105.

Physician’s Personal Brush with Opioid Addiction

For Kevin Lamb, MD,  the opioid crisis became real to him in 2009. 

Once, he said, he had spoken at a leadership forum on opioid abuse, about the role of hospital systems in addressing it. Thinking over what to say, he “realized there was very little I could add. The crisis is epidemic, and hospitals are ill-prepared to do anything proactive. It is that overwhelming.” But leading medical missions made him realise that the rest of the world has overwhelming needs too, which only become real once they are experienced firsthand.

Since transparency is so important, he decided to share his own story.

“This is my story of how close I came to going down that perilous path that is opioid addiction (or any addiction for that matter). I was fortunate that I stopped before I went too far down that path. Unfortunately, too many are unable to stop and continue the downward spiral toward that deep, dark pit called despair and its brother hopelessness. If this could happen to me, it could happen to anyone. If my story prevents even one of you from experiencing this, then the trepidation I feel sharing this will be worth it.”

His story began following his first back surgery in 2009 for an acutely herniated disc that occurred while leading a medical mission in Eastern Europe, which he said was the worst pain he had ever experienced, leaving him with a weak, numb right leg. Having to be carried to bed, living in very basic conditions, with no running water and power interruptions, he feared his condition would force him to be evacuated, although he was able to regain neurologic function for a short while, finishing the mission. 

He went in for surgery two days after getting home. He received Oxycontin with a refill, which at the time was common practice, and it eased the pain and had a calming effect, he said. Before the trip, he had experienced a lot of stress, and now being on medical leave he enjoyed the feeling of relief that it gave.

However, as the pills started to run out, he felt embarrassed at the thought of having to request a refill, at being thought of as an addict. But after he used the last pill, withdrawal symptoms kicked in — restlessness, abdominal cramping, diarrhea. “Though relatively mild, it frightened me. I never imagined I could become physically and mentally dependent. I thought this only happened to people who were ‘weak’ or lacked ‘self-discipline’. I was wrong,” he recalled.

He said that besides “scary and humbling”, it was also “surreal… “If it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone!” he warned. The reality is that many in the medical profession are at risk, the pressures of the profession can mean that substance abuse is an easy escape with devastating consequences.

He concluded, hoping that by sharing his story he could make a difference. “My fervent desire is that it will make this crisis more personal and thus more real to you. Only then can you better know the enemy you face and how best to defeat it.”

Source: KevinMD

Recreational Substances Including Cannabis Linked to Heart Disease

Alcohol, tobacco and cannabis are among recreational drugs that contribute to early-onset atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) in young people, a study has found.

The study drew on data of more than a million people receiving primary care services throughout the VA Healthcare System in 2014 or 2015, of whom there were 135 703 with premature ASCVD.

A number of independent predictors for first-event ASCVD for men (from age 55) and women (from 65) were picked up. Tobacco (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 1.97) and alcohol use (OR 1.50)  conferred significant additional risk, but the greatest risk increase of generally legal substances was cannabis use (OR 2.65). Cocaine use (OR 2.44), amphetamine use (OR 2.74) and other drug use (OR 2.53) all had very high risk increases.

Those using four or more substances had the greatest risk at nearly nine times normal. Women also had much stronger effect sizes for premature ASCVD than men.

In an accompanying editorial Anthony Wayne Orr, PhD, and colleagues at LSU Health Shreveport, wrote: “Substance use disorders have been associated with an acceleration of the ageing process. We are only young once, and we should do everything in our power to maintain that state as long as we can.”

The editorialists suggested a nationwide ASCVD education campaign targeting people with substance use disorders.

“In addition, clinicians and primary care providers should begin screening their adult and young adult patients with a history of a substance use disorder for symptoms of premature or extremely premature ASCVDs at earlier stages in their patients’ lives,” suggested the editorialists.

Limitations included it being an observational study, lack of socioeconomic data and the cohort being mostly white males, as well as not being able to discern between prescription and recreational amphetamine use.
“Retrospective studies are limited by the available data. While this study supports the association between substance use disorder and early-onset ASCVD, the effect of substance use frequency, dose, and duration cannot be reliably ascertained in this patient sample,” the editorialists stated.

The editorialists recommended that specific biomarkers for substance use-associated cardiovascular disease be identified, and therapeutic window characterised to limit these chronic effects of substance use disorder.

Source: MedPage Today

Journal information: Mahtta D, et al “Recreational substance use among patients with premature atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease” Heart 2021; DOI: 10.1136/heartjnl-2020-318119.

Editorial information: Scott ML, et al “Young at heart? Drugs of abuse cause early-onset cardiovascular disease in the young” Heart 2021; DOI: 10.1136/heartjnl-2020-318856.

Opioid Overdoses in US Increasing due to COVID

The COVID pandemic has not seen a drop in the United States’ opioid crisis, rather there has been an exacerbation of the problem.

A study published in JAMA Psychiatry examined the impact that the COVID pandemic had on the US opioid crisis. 

Opioid misuse and addiction is an ongoing and increasing problem in the US, making up two thirds of overdoses. Some three million Americans have suffered opioid use disorder at some point. With approximately 100 million Americans living with chronic or acute pain, the situation is seemingly intractable. In 2019, there were 70 000 deaths from opioid overdoses, making it a top priority in public health, academic, and political debates. When the COVID pandemic hit, it did not displace the opioid crisis through distraction or somehow preventing access to opioids, it fanned the flames of it. 

Researchers analysed 190 million ED visits, and over March to October 2020. they observed an increase of  up to 45% in weekly opioid overdose admissions over the same period in 2019. Overall, ED visits for opioid overdoses had increased 28.8% compared to the previous year.

In September, the CDC warned that deaths from opioid overdoses were up by 38.4% in the first half of the year. The many stresses of the pandemic, such as its associated lockdowns and job losses and losing loved ones, has fuelled the opioid abuse. The same study also found that visits to the ED for mental health conditions, domestic violence, and child abuse and neglect increased over the same period of time, along with suicide attempts. 

Source: ABC News

Journal information: Holland KM, Jones C, Vivolo-Kantor AM, et al. Trends in US Emergency Department Visits for Mental Health, Overdose, and Violence Outcomes Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online February 03, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.4402