The opioid crisis remains an ongoing public health emergency in the United States after initially being declared a crisis in October 2017. Mass.gov recently released some data that indicated overdose deaths in Massachusetts increased slightly in the first nine months of 2020 compared with the same time last year.

According to Maine.gov, there were 127 drug overdose deaths that occurred during the first quarter of 2020—a 23% increase over the number of drug overdose deaths that occurred during the fourth quarter of 2019. An estimated 82% of these deaths were caused by at least one opioid.

Knowing more about opioid-related deaths in Maine can open your eyes to whether someone you care about may be at risk and could benefit from addiction treatment at a rehab. Here’s a closer look at why opioid-related deaths are on the rise again in Maine and how you can help someone in need.

Why Is Maine Seeing an Uptick of Opioid-Related Deaths?

Maine isn’t the only state experiencing a recent increase in the number of opioid-related deaths. A report from Maine.gov states that increases in drug overdose deaths are being observed across the U.S. on behalf of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Social isolation, financial difficulty, and reluctance to seeking medical treatment are cited as top causes of opioid-related deaths during this time. Stress, depression, anxiety, and boredom are other potential causes of drug abuse, as cited by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The report from Maine.gov also noted that interruptions in international drug supplies may be causing some people to use drug combinations and substitutions that increase their risk for an overdose. For example, shortages in prescription opioids and heroin may be leading to an increase in the use of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids known to be highly potent and likely to trigger an overdose.

How Can People Reduce Their Risk of Opioid Overdose?

The NIDA and other leading health organizations have acknowledged that COVID-19 may be an especially trying time for people struggling with addiction or who are in recovery from addiction. Factors like stress and anxiety that typically lead to drug abuse can also increase the risk for relapse.

The NIDA offers the following suggestions for people in recovery from addiction:

  • Reach out to your loved ones and stay in touch with them to minimize feelings of loneliness and isolation.
  • Use effective coping strategies to reduce stress, fear, anxiety, depression, and other difficult emotions.
  • Stay connected with your recovery community by attending in-person or virtual support group meetings.

Other steps you can take to reduce your risk for addiction and relapse include diving into new hobbies, staying busy with work and family, helping those in need, and giving back to your community through volunteer work. Try to prioritize going outside for sunshine and fresh air, and exercise every day, as doing so can help strengthen your immune system and keep you in relatively good health.

How Can Someone Get Help for Opioid Addiction?

Many drug rehab centers around the country have remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic and have taken the necessary steps to keep their patients and recovery communities as safe as possible. Addiction treatment centers are usually separate from hospitals—meaning you likely won’t have to worry about whether or not they are accepting new patients due to COVID-19 capacity limits.

Opioid addiction can be safely and effectively treated with a quality rehabilitation program, counseling, and behavioral therapy. When calling local treatment centers, ask about their treatment methods .

Accredited treatment centers like Baystate Recovery Center (BRC) will acknowledge the struggles your loved one may be going through while trying to manage recovery and COVID-19, and will accommodate your loved one accordingly. BRC will also provide your loved one with the skills they need to successfully manage stress and other relapse triggers during this difficult time, and for all future instances that pose the risk for relapse.