More than 2 million Americans struggle with opioid use disorder, and about 130 Americans on average die every day from an opioid overdose. Opioids account for a majority of drug overdose deaths, the leading cause of accidental death in the US. It's a crisis that's been a priority for officials at the federal, state and local levels for years.
Now, the coronavirus has disrupted all matters of life across the country -- including efforts to combat the nation's opioid problem.
Walk-in clinics and syringe exchange programs have been closed. Community support groups are meeting virtually.
Some who struggle with substance abuse are homeless or incarcerated and can't comply with social distancing guidelines, while those who can are left isolated and at risk. On top of all that, the pandemic is causing massive stress -- a primary driver of relapse.
"This changing, very strange world that we're living through could serve as a trigger for people to return to drug use," said Daliah Heller, director of drug use initiatives at the public health organization Vital Strategies. "And that brings a great potential for overdose with it."
As local officials report spikes in overdose calls and deaths, experts and advocates say they're concerned the coronavirus pandemic is making an already serious problem worse.
Local officials are reporting overdose spikes
County coroners, law enforcement and emergency responders around the country are reporting spikes in overdose