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Health Experts Worry Isolation, Stress And Social Distancing During Coronavirus Pandemic Leading To Spike In Drug Abuse

LONG ISLAND (CBSNewYork) - Monday is recognized as International Overdose Awareness Day. The problem continues to impact families and communities - especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

New studies show sheltering in place has pushed many people struggling with anxiety, loneliness and grief to self-medicate with drugs, CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported.


There's alarming trouble in basements and backyards on Long Island, after a two-year decline in drug overdoses and death: a double-digit spike linked to coronavirus.

"We're up 43 percent in all fatal overdoses," said Nassau County Police Chief Patrick Ryder. "Bad guys don't follow the rules. They don't go home and quarantine... they go out and they sell drugs to our kids."

"You feel very helpless, you feel hopeless," one person said.

"I worry every morning I wake up and I think some other poor parent is going through this," said another.

Victor and Dorreen Ciappa's teen daughter, Natalie, became the poster child for the drug education movement with successful results until COVID-19.

"Ruined a beautiful child and it has ruined many kids," said Victor Ciappa. "My wife and I have been through hell."

"The despair, the isolation, the financial insecurity, depression, mental health issues really began to percolate and blossom," said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.

"What we're beginning to experience now is really the ripple effects of COVID. We focused on the immediate, public health threat early on, but let me tell you, overdoses and suicides are just as deadly as COVID," said Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds of the Family and Children's Association.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Now, there's a renewed push and commitment from government, survivors and peer counselors.

"I've been there and here's what I'm doing with my life now. It gives them a sense of hope," said Veronica Finneran, a recovering opioid addict.

"There was an in-and-out cycle of going into treatment and losing that hope... it's vital that we have services available," said Ryan Kiser, a counselor and recovering addict.

Experts worry that a lack of structure with virtual schools and colleges will bring an even greater temptation to share drugs this fall.

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