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Papers: 13 Mar 2021 - 19 Mar 2021

2021 Mar 14

Pain Ther

COVID-19 and the Opioid Epidemic: Two Public Health Emergencies That Intersect With Chronic Pain.


Manchikanti L, Vanaparthy R, Atluri S, Sachdeva H, Kaye AD, Hirsch JA
Pain Ther. 2021 Mar 14.
PMID: 33718982.


The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire world and catapulted the United States into one of the deepest recessions in history. While this pandemic rages, the opioid crisis worsens. During this period, the pandemic has resulted in the decimation of most conventional medical services, including those of chronic pain management, with the exception of virtual care and telehealth. Many chronic pain patients have been impacted in numerous ways, with increases in cardiovascular disease, mental health problems, cognitive dysfunction, and early death. The epidemic has also resulted in severe economic and physiological consequences for providers. Drug deaths in America, which fell for the first time in 25 years in 2018, rose to record numbers in 2019 and are continuing to climb, worsened by the coronavirus pandemic. The opioid epidemic was already resurfacing with a 5% increase in overall deaths from 2018; however, the preliminary data show that prescription opioid deaths continued to decline, while at the same time deaths due to fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cocaine climbed, with some reductions in heroin deaths. The health tracker data also showed that along with an almost 88% decline in elective surgeries, pain-related prescriptions declined 15.1%. Despite increases in telehealth, outpatient services declined and only began returning towards normal at an extremely slow pace, accompanied by reduced productivity and increased practice costs. This review, therefore, emphasizes the devastating consequences of concurrent epidemics on chronic pain management and the need to develop best practice efforts to preserve access to treatment for chronic pain.