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  • Writer's pictureEllen Krohne

2020 - The Deadliest Year

COVID 19 has consumed much of our nation’s public and health official’s energy in 2020. Rightly so. The pandemic has had an unprecedented effect of our country, with 22 million cases and nearing 400,000 deaths.

Another public-health disaster is also taking more lives than ever. It is one that had the public and health official’s attention prior to the pandemic and has now turned deadlier in 2020 than ever before.

Per the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 2018’s lower death rate (67,367 deaths) than the previous year and progress in the fight against overdose deaths due in part to increased Naloxone (the overdose reversing drug) availability, has now been overshadowed by increases. In 2019 there were over 72,000 deaths and, while final statistics are not yet available, 2020 will be over 80,000 deaths.

The CDC estimates that 81,230 drug overdose deaths occurred from June 2019 to May 2020. The largest overdose spike was from March to May of 2020, which coincides with the beginning of the pandemic when the economy collapsed, lockdowns were imposed and “social distancing” became our new way of life. In addition to unemployment and financial uncertainty driving up despair, public-health experts have also suggested that isolation during the pandemic has led more people to use drugs alone with no one around to revive them or call 911 if they overdose.

Illicit fentanyl, a super-potent manufactured opioid that is a substitute for heroin, is largely responsible for the soaring death rate, according to the CDC. Across the country, deaths are also steeply rising from stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine, and many deaths involve a combination of different kinds of drugs, not just opioids.

The CDC recently issued a health advisory to medical and public health professionals, first responders, harm reduction organizations, and other community partners recommending the following actions as appropriate based on local needs and characteristics:

  • Expand distribution and use of naloxone and overdose prevention education.

  • Expand awareness about and access to and availability of treatment for substance use disorders.

  • Intervene early with individuals at highest risk for overdose.

  • Improve detection of overdose outbreaks to facilitate more effective response.

“The disruption to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit those with substance use disorder hard,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield, M.D. “As we continue the fight to end this pandemic, it’s important to not lose sight of different groups being affected in other ways. We need to take care of people suffering from unintended consequences.”

Unintended consequences like all of those families that are grieving the loss of their loved one. The pandemic has made that harder, too.

If you or someone you know has been impacted by an addiction loss, in Southwestern Illinois there is help available. Heartlinks Grief Center offers an Addiction Loss Support Group, just for those who are grieving a loss due to addiction. The group is active, on-line for now, and welcomes new members.

Heartlinks Grief Center provides grief support to all ages, regardless of ability to pay. If you are grieving or know someone who could use assistance on their grief journey, please contact Heartlinks Grief Center at 618-277-1800 or email

To learn more about addiction loss and ways we can each help in the fight to reduce stigma and death due to addiction loss, Heartbroken – Grief and Hope Inside the Opioid Crisis offers information and shares the stories of seven families who lost a child to addiction.

Proceeds from the sale of We Lost Her and Heartbroken are donated to help support Heartlinks Grief Center.

Be blessed,


Ellen Krohne

We Lost Her, available at this link on

Heartbroken, available at this link on

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