Drug Misuse During COVID-19: PCPs Worry Signs of Addiction Were Missed

Primary care physicians noted increased stress among patients during the pandemic and worry that telehealth visits may have hidden signs of drug misuse.

Deaths from drug overdoses in the US surpassed 100 000 for the first time over a 12-month period, according to provisional data released this week by the National Center for Health Statistics of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The report shows the death toll increased by 28.5% over the 12-month period ending April 2021, rising from 78 056 recorded during the same time the previous year to an estimated 100 306.

Results of research just released by Quest Diagnostics suggest that the NCHS statistics confirm what many primary care clinicians most feared for some of their patients during the COVID-19 pandemic--that the stress and anxiety could fuel prescription and illicit drug use and abuse, even leading to addiction.

In fact the Quest Health Trends® Drug Misuse in America 2021 report found that more than two-thirds of 500 primary care physicians surveyed worried that they have missed signs of drug use disorders among their patients during the pandemic, a fear rooted in the reality that nearly half of all patients (48%) tested in 2020 showed signs of drug misuse; 50% of those cases involved drug combining.

The slides below offer the Quest report's topline findings for you, at-a-glance.