Sources of Illegal Drugs Change During Pandemic, Leading to New Overdose Risks

U.S. map with pills

The coronavirus pandemic is impacting the supply chain of illegal drugs, leading to new overdose risks, experts tell NPR.

Normal transit routes through South America or Asia have shut down, according to Uttam Dhillon, acting administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. There also has been a large drop in car and foot traffic to and from Mexico, the main source of heroin in America.

Addiction treatment specialist Joseph DeSanto of Orange County, California says many of his patients have found new sources of heroin and opioid pills. “When they had to use another dealer, they would be getting a different strength. So they weren’t really sure of how they should measure it and how much they should use. So we started seeing a lot of overdoses and a lot of overdose deaths in the first couple of weeks of the pandemic,” he said.

How to Use Naloxone to Reverse Opioid Overdose and Save Lives

A variety of drugs and drug combinations carry the risk of fatal overdose. Emergency protocol for any suspected overdose includes calling 911. However, in the case of opioids, which includes heroin and prescription pain medications like Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet, naloxone (also known by the brand name Narcan) can reverse an overdose, potentially saving a loved one’s life.

How to Respond to Overdose with Naloxone - Narcan