Patients who are prescribed opioids and the clinicians who prescribe them have more to be concerned about than steadily rising rates of opioid overdoses, according to a new study.

ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) -- Friday afternoon, cars lined up outside a free COVID-19 testing site. On the front lines was co-owner of Viral Solutions and emergency physician Dr. Ben Lefkove.

Not only did he tell CBS46 that he has seen an uptick in testing and positive cases, but he said he’s recently noticed more patients with psychiatric and drug issues visiting the emergency department.

“We saw a lot of spiraling with patients,” said Dr. Lefkove. “We also saw worsened substance abuse patients using drugs and alcohol most likely to cope with the effects of the pandemic.”

Georgia is now possibly battling the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid epidemic. The state Department of Health has reported a suspected spike in drug overdoses during the emergence of coronavirus. A map released by DPH showed potential increases of opioid emergency department visits across several counties, including Fulton, Douglas and Henry.

“We are hearing overdose stories and so I mean, there was a funeral last week,” said Carol Smith, Director of Development at No longer Bound.

She said at the start of the coronavirus crisis phone calls at the addiction treatment center doubled.

“It’s not a coincidence,” said Smith. “There was another report that came out that predicted there to be 70,000 more overdose related deaths this year than the previous year.”

Smith believes stress, unemployment, anxiety and social isolation are triggers.

“When your go-to is a chemical or alcohol and you don’t know how to handle your emotions and your anxiety and all that time at home, there is no accountability. It just really exacerbates beating the problem with addiction,” said Smith.

She encourages anyone who is feeling at risk to call a friend, phone line or treatment center.

Copyright 2020 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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