Addressing the Opioid Crisis During COVID-19
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It is an understatement to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has caked the entire world with a layer of stress. For those who experience addiction and mental health concerns, the additional stress can pose a serious risk to health.

Prior to COVID-19, people with opioid addiction already struggled to obtain comprehensive care due to widespread stigma and misinformation, in addition to systemic and socioeconomic barriers.

Opioid Agonist Therapies (OATs):

- People who use opioids need enhanced access to lifesaving medications -- such as buprenorphine/naloxone and methadone -- and to have extended prescriptions for these medications throughout the duration of the pandemic.
- These medications, known as opioid agonist therapies (OATs), maintain tolerance, improve treatment retention, reduce risk of relapse, and importantly, reduce overdose risk compared to abstinence only-based approaches to opioid addiction treatment.
- OATs also reduce the rewarding effect of stronger opioids, such as heroin or fentanyl, which can discourage use and may prevent overdose in case of relapse.

Stigma and access for care:

- To truly reduce stigma, we must make it acceptable for people who use drugs to ask for help, without being judged, ostracized, or disciplined. We must also have immediate and available on-demand, person-centered care.
- In many geographical areas, few evidence-based treatment options exist for people who use opioids.

Conclusively, people who experience mental health and addiction concerns require ongoing support during this pandemic. Lives depend on timely policy action. We need to make new and necessary policy changes; reduce face-to-face interactions; and support evidence-based, person-centered care.

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