September 26, 2022

Substance use disorder admissions down, overdose deaths up during COVID-19

By: Judy Mathias

Editor's Note

This study led by the RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, California, finds a 23.5% decrease in substance use disorder treatment admissions across the US during COVID-19.

In 2020, the number of substance use disorders admissions decreased from 65.9 to 50.4 per 10,000. The decrease was larger for men (87.5 to 67.1 per 10,000) than women (45.1 to 34.5 per 10,000).

All racial and ethnic groups experienced a decrease in admissions, with the largest decrease for Native Americans (144.5 to 82.8 per 10,000), followed by Blacks (85.5 to 63.3 per 10,000), Hispanics (54.7 to 41.1 per 10,000), Whites (54.2 to 42.5 per 10,000), and Asians (10.0 to 7.1 per 10,000).

During this same time period, Native Americans experienced the largest increases in drug overdose deaths, and Blacks had higher overdose deaths than Whites.

This is the first national study to report decreases in the number of substance use disorder admissions during COVID-19 and provides a possible reason for the increase in drug overdose deaths. Future studies are needed to examine the reasons for the decreases, including policy changes (eg, elective procedure bans and shelter-in-place policies), the authors say.

JAMA (healthcare publication) Network logo


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