By Team

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – New research shows America’s opioid epidemic has reached unprecedented levels during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows more than 100,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. from April 2020 to April 2021, a 28.5% increase from the year before. Overdose deaths from opioids climbed past 75,000.

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Luis Laboy runs an addiction treatment center in New York City. The pandemic brought more stress and isolation, and, in some cases, disrupted key support systems.

“A lot of individuals that are getting caught up as a result of what’s been going on with the pandemic, with COVID-19, with homelessness, unemployment, and looking for relief from this pain, misery, and suffering, they look at the drugs as an outlet,” Laboy said.

The drug Naloxone, also known as Narcan, has saved countless lives by reversing overdose symptoms. But due to manufacturing problems and high costs, there’s now a nationwide shortage.

“It is the number one resource that we use. Without it, we’re going to fall short,” Laboy said.

Treatment providers say they desperately need more resources.

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Jonathan Drescher struggled with opioid addiction and went to a treatment center earlier this year. His mother Lori said there wasn’t an after-care plan for when he was released.

“They sent him home early, and he went home, and he used, and he died that night. There were no supports for him,” she said.

Lori’s son’s battle led her to become a certified addiction and recovery coach.

“It would have been really easy for me to give up the work that I do when I lost my son, and I was tempted. But what keeps me going is every day I walk into my classes,” she said.

Lori said one thing we all can do is have more compassion for people struggling with addiction.

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The federal government has allocated billions of dollars to fight opioid addiction in recent spending bills. Addiction experts say they hope to see more support put into medication-assisted treatment and promoting safer drug use. Team