Opioid-related ER visits skyrocket in Richmond during pandemic

Posted at 3:49 PM, Sep 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-21 15:49:48-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The number of people admitted to the VCU Medical Center emergency room after overdosing on opioids more than doubled during the 2020 pandemic quarentine compared to the same months (March thru June) in 2019, according to VCU researchers.

“Social isolation, job loss, the inaccessibility of community resources — these could all contribute to the overdoses we’re observing,” Taylor Ochalek, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow, said.

The number of nonfatal opioid overdose visits to the VCU Medical Center emergency department in Richmond increased from 102 between March and June 2019 to 227 between March and June 2020, according to researchers. That is an increase of 123%.

Researchers said in both 2019 and 2020 most of the patients, 70% and 73% respectively, were men.

The percentage of Black patients increased from 63% in 2019 to 80% in 2020.

“Health disparities have been magnified during the pandemic,” Ochalek said.

“The pandemic is more than a crisis of one disease," F. Gerard Moeller, M.D., director of the Wright Center and director of the VCU Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies, said. "Its ripple effects will be felt for some time in the form of secondary health impacts like addiction."