Overdose Deaths During COVID: How Should Addiction Treatment Centers Respond?

Addiction treatment centers probably could have predicted it even before the numbers came out. The number of overdose deaths during COVID exploded last year by a shocking 30%. According to the CDC, last year’s numbers were the highest the government agency has ever recorded.

In a recent statement, the NCHS said that the rate of overdose deaths during COVID was affected by synthetic opioids like fentanyl as well as psychostimulants such as meth. Prescription painkillers and cocaine also figured in the overall death toll. 

We’ve never seen such overdose numbers in a 12-month period before. It’s now impossible to deny that the pandemic only complicated an existing problem. The opioid crisis was already a crisis long before the pandemic. Now, we’re dealing with an even deeper health crisis in the United States that’s difficult for the general public to fully grasp.

Making Sense of Overdose Deaths During COVID

Opioid deaths have been growing worse for decades in the United States. It’s no secret… at least not to those in the addiction treatment space.

The reasons for this situation are numerous. Some in Congress blame the FDA because it approved synthetic opioids, which allowed companies like Purdue Pharma to ruthlessly exploit the market. Before the first case of COVID was ever reported, opioids were a serious problem.

Without question, the pandemic made what was already a serious crisis that much worse. Unfortunately, nothing happening in 2021 suggests things will get better without greater action to change the situation.

It’s true that COVID cases were greatly reduced in the US due to the introduction of mass vaccinations. However, the implications of increased substance use disorders will not drop when the number of COVID cases do. Overdose deaths during COVID are simply the latest fuel added to the fire of addiction.

Clearly, the focus must now shift to effective treatment. Addiction treatment centers have to prioritize making treatment options widely available to people battling addiction. However, this won’t be easy. Complicating matters is the fact that there isn’t an effective and truly committed driving force behind charting a new course.

How the nation responded to overdose deaths stands in marked contrast to how it has dealt with the pandemic. In record time, several highly effective vaccines are created. Then, in the space of just six months, more than 330 million doses of COVID vaccines were successfully administered.

Unfortunately, the public and lawmakers don’t have the same sense of urgency or see the need for intense strategic planning to combat the surge in overdose deaths.

Action Steps For Dealing With Overdose Deaths During COVID

Addiction treatment centers need to concentrate on several key areas if they wish to effectively address the rise of opioid overdose deaths that is the legacy of COVID. These steps would include the following:

Adjust your addiction marketing message to two audiences 

Your first tendency is to adjust your marketing message to prospective patients themselves. While this is important, remember that there’s a second audience for your marketing: the prospective patient’s family. These are the people who desperately want to help their loved one. They probably know about all of the overdose deaths during COVID and they’re scared. Your content needs to speak to them as well.

Meet people where they are, which is online 

The pandemic showed us that the internet is how people communicate, seek information and shop. Addiction treatment centers need to seek a better understanding about which websites prospective patients frequent?

Strengthen social media support groups 

During the pandemic, these became vital, especially for dealing with alumni. Overdose deaths during COVID shattered lives, especially those who struggle every day to remain sober. Target content on social media to reach people and reinforce the danger of relapse.

Focus on better targeting patients with PPC and SEO 

Hyper-specific local SEO became more important than ever during the height of the pandemic. It changed consumer behavior, perhaps permanently. Consequently, addiction treatment centers need to wisely employ PPC and SEO to reach qualified prospective patients.

Market where addicts are online 

Stop wasting time with channels of communication that may not be where your target audience is. Spend your time and your money on media platforms where your marketing messages will be seen and appreciated.

Let real-time data drive your decisions 

There’s literally no need to guess about how trends of addiction are shifting. Substance use trend prediction technology enables addiction treatment centers to stay ahead of the curve rather than be stuck behind it.

Precise targeting through medical transport data is a new solution to a very old problem: knowing how to deploy your addiction services in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

Dealing With the Aftermath of Overdose Deaths During COVID

Addiction treatment centers need to build the same kind of resolve to deal with overdose deaths during COVID that it took to create and distribute the COVID vaccine. Increased substance use isn’t going to decline unless drug rehabs find ways to more effectively reach their audiences.