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US opioid deaths rising amid coronavirus lockdowns, state health officials say

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Opioid deaths are spiking in places across the U.S. as states remain locked down during the ongoing battle against the coronavirus, state and county health officials reported this month.

While national data isn’t available for most of 2020, several individual states are reporting an increase in opioid overdose deaths amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Health officials and experts have cited increased isolation and job loss due to statewide shutdowns as possible factors for the surge in drug-related deaths.

“The pandemic has really increased risk factors for substance abuse disorder,” Rebecca Shultz, director of community health at the Onondaga County Health Department, told Syracuse.com.

Opioid deaths in Onondaga County, N.Y., jumped to 86 in the first six months of 2020, according to the county health department.

This number was nearly double the reported 44 fatalities in the first half of 2019, the outlet reported, citing the county medical examiner’s office.

Oregon saw a 70% increase in opioid overdose deaths in April and May 2020 compared to the same time last year, the Oregon Health Authority said.

In Maine, which saw 258 overdose deaths from January through June, there was a 27% increase over the second half of 2019.

Officials cited increased isolation as a partial factor for the rise.

They were up 9% in Washington through the end of August, 28% in Colorado, and 30% in Kentucky during that same time.

After a one-year drop in 2018, U.S. opioid overdose deaths increased again in 2019, topping 50,000 for the first time, according to provisional data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2017, President Trump became the first president to declare the opioid crisis a national health  emergency.