House committee warns HHS that pandemic has worsened opioid crisis


U.S. House Bipartisan Energy and Commerce Committee leaders recently sent a letter to Alex Azar, Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary, expressing concern that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the substance use disorder (SUD) and overdose crisis

In 2019, the number of overdose deaths in the United States reached a record high. In March, April, and May 2020, overdoses increased 18 percent, 29 percent, and 42 percent, respectively, according to the Washington Post.

More Americans are suffering from depression, and the support systems and treatment programs are more difficult to access, according to Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health.

“While we continue to fight the COVID-19 crisis, we cannot lose sight of another: the ongoing substance use disorder (SUD) and overdose crisis that our country has been battling for decades,” the letter said. “Since 1999, over 750,000 Americans have died from drug overdoses, representing the worst drug crisis in American history, and we are concerned that overdose deaths are increasing while attention is focused on COVID-19.”

The lawmakers asked how the federal government will address the growing crisis and requested a briefing on the latest trends in substance use and overdoses and how pandemic has affected the trends.