Why Drug Treatment Admissions Dropped Post-Pandemic: Reversing The Trend

Drug overdose deaths in the U.S. have skyrocketed in the last two years of the pandemic while admissions for treatment programs have declined. Reversing the trend may be important to ensuring the need for treatment is fully met.

Decline In Addiction Treatment Admissions

Admissions to drug addiction treatment programs during the first year of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic saw a 23.5% decline, according to a new analysis.

A new analysis, published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found that treatment admissions declined from 65.9 per 10,000 in 2019 to 50 per 10,000 in 2020.

This sharp decline in treatment admissions, experts say, could be one factor to explain a surge in drug overdose deaths seen in the United States over the last two years.

Reversing this trend, and ensuring all of those with a substance use issue have access to quality addiction treatment, could be an important step for people affected by addiction moving forward.

What Caused Treatment Admissions To Drop?

At this time, the exact causes for the sharp decline in treatment admissions are unclear. However, some addiction experts and researchers have shared potential reasons for why this occurred.

Some contributing factors to this decline might include:

  • shelter-in-place policies
  • concern about COVID-19 infection
  • lacking the capacity to provide socially-distanced services
  • delayed or insufficient personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • reduced operations in the court system
  • elective procedure bans during the pandemic

Where Did Treatment Admissions Decline The Most?

According to the new study, conducted by the RAND Corporation, some states saw bigger drops in treatment admissions than others, based on information from federal public health data sets.

States that saw the steepest declines in treatment admissions include:

  • New Mexico (61% decline)
  • Hawaii (55% decline)
  • Washington D.C. (45% decline)
  • Nevada (42% decline)
  • West Virginia (33% decline)

Did All States See Declines In Treatment Admissions?

According to the study, Louisiana, Rhode Island, and Mississippi saw small increases in treatment admissions in 2020. The reasons for this, however, are unclear.

A few additional states including Idaho, Washington, Maryland, Vermont, and Oregon, were also not included in the study, due to insufficient data.

Decline In Treatment Admissions By Race/Ethnicity

Geographic information was not the only information collected and analyzed by researchers examining treatment admission trends.

According to researchers, the decline in treatment admissions was most prominent among people of color, particularly Native Americans and black populations in the states analyzed.

Declines in treatment admissions in 2020 by race/ethnicity:

  • Native Americans: 145 per 10,000 to 83 per 10,000
  • Black people: 86 per 10,000 to 63 per 10,000
  • Hispanic people: 55 per 10,000 to 41 per 10,000
  • White people: 54 per 10,000 to 44 per 10,000
  • Asian people: 10 per 10,0000 to 7 per 10,000

Decline In Treatment Admissions By Gender

A gender gap was also seen in treatment admissions for substance use disorder during COVID-19, per demographic information analyzed by study researchers.

Treatment admissions among men in 2020 saw a larger decline, from 88 per 10,000 to 67 per 10,000 men, compared to a decline of 45 per 10,000 to 35 per 10,000 among women.

Treatment admissions data specific to other gender identities were not collected or analyzed.

What Are The Dangers Of Declines In Treatment Admissions?

During the same time period that treatment admissions for drug and alcohol addiction declined, reports of overdose deaths (largely driven by illicit, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl) surged.

Reports of alcohol abuse, drug use, and struggles with mental health also increased during the pandemic. This can be tied to a host of issues, including isolation and reduced treatment access.

Jonathan Cantor, one of the authors of the new study, said he believes this makes their findings even more noteworthy, particularly as the government considers overdose prevention strategies.

What Can Be Done To Reverse The Trend?

The drop in drug treatment admissions during the pandemic was not due to a drop in demand. If anything, the demand for quality, competent care increased.

At Spring Hill Recovery Center, we believe it’s important that everyone who is in need of substance abuse treatment has access to those services through a qualified, effective treatment provider.

Continuing to combat addiction stigma and normalizing the process of seeking professional help for addiction may also help people feel more comfortable seeking out treatment.

Substance Abuse Treatment Services

If you or a loved one are currently battling a substance use disorder, an evidence-based treatment program can assist you in achieving long-term recovery.

Behavioral health care services may include:

Find Addiction Treatment At Spring Hill Recovery Center

Our residential inpatient programs and outpatient programs at Spring Hill Recovery Center are personalized to meet each person’s needs for care.

Don’t wait to seek help. For more information about our addiction treatment programs, call our helpline to speak with an admissions specialist today.

Written by Spring Hill Editorial Team

Published on: January 25, 2023

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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