Episode 1: An Epidemic Within a Pandemic

Monday, June 14, 2021


Countering the Opioid Crisis: Time for Action Podcast

Click here if you are interested in listening to the full episode hosted by the National Academy of Medicine.

In this episode the guest speakers are Dr. Kelly Clark, an addiction medicine specialist and Daniel Sledge, a community paramedic in Texas. Both speakers discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on the opioid crisis and how treatment delivery was affected for individuals with substance use disorder (SUD). Below are some of the highlights that I took away from the podcast:

  • People who have opioid use disorder (OUD) and also contracted COVID have a higher risk of dying that someone who does not have OUD.
  • More than 40 states reported increases in fatal overdoses since the pandemic began.
  • Daniel recalls that many people that were assigned to assist with community outreach or their mobile health unit were reassigned to the COVID pandemic response which affected the number of people who could access care.
  • Dr. Clark discussed that many people who provide substance use treatment do not come from a medical background so they aren't well versed on proper sanitation and PPE standards. They had to learn on the spot and also in an environment that didn't have enough PPE to go around. As a result, many treatment centers did shut down until telemedicine services were approved.
  • One of the biggest challenges for Daniel was the exponential increase in the number of people who needed help. Also, since many of the people needing assistance lost their jobs due to the pandemic they needed assistance with more than just one thing so there was more work to find them food or shelter in addition to the services already provided.
  • Dr. Clark gives some background about how prescriptions for anxiety had been decreasing for ten years in the United States but are up over 30% since March 2020.
  • Dr. Clark talks about how telemedicine has changed and expanded over the course of the pandemic. She recalls that beforehand the patient would still need to come into the healthcare setting but during that visit they would remote call the doctor who is at another location. The pandemic allows the patient to stay home. Dr. Clark also talks about how temporary all these changes are and the reason the rules are relaxed is because of the federal state of emergency.
  • Daniel would like to see buprenorphine and methadone deregulated and to keep the telemedicine provisions that have put into place during the pandemic. 
  • Stigma is one of the chief barriers stopping individuals from accessing treatment for their SUD.


Annette Perrino
Program Manager
Macomb Partnership for Overdose Prevention