Lawmakers: pandemic has led to a drug addiction crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. — There is growing concern about impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on drug addiction.

Health officials say they’ve seen a surge in overdoses in recent months. Members of Congress are trying to find some answers, calling it an addiction crisis.

“Addiction has almost been forgotten in a lot of areas and people are not getting the resources they need,” said Paul Hammersley, a former addict.

Hammersley now works at recovery centers but says the demand is overwhelming.

“I lived in the world of addiction for 29 years. I’ve never seen what I’ve seen in this last year for folks who are struggling with substance abuse disorders. It’s really really a bad time, he said.

The issue was front and center this week on Capitol Hill.

During a congressional hearing, lawmakers pointed to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It shows that during the pandemic, from August 2019 to August 2020, more than 88,000 overdose deaths were reported — the highest ever recorded in a one-year timeframe.

“Experts, including law enforcement, the DEA and local leaders in my community are raising the alarm. We’re losing more people to the depths of despair,” said Cathy Rodgers (R-Wash.)

Right now, Congress is considering 11 pieces of legislation to deal with substance misuse.

“What we discuss today and in the months to come really is an issue of life and death, so it’s very serious,” said Frank Pallone (D-N.J.)

Lawmakers say there are too many barriers to treatment right now. They’re calling on states to create more recovery programs and make it easier for people to use them.