Survivors and loved ones recount the pains of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s opioid crisis during COVID

Laura W., outside her home in Carrick. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

by Oliver Morrison

Over the summer, PublicSource reported that the number of drug overdoses and overdose deaths in Allegheny County was rising again.

The increase started before the pandemic, but experts said the coronavirus was making the opioid epidemic worse. We reported on what the new surge in overdoses looked like from the eyes of recovery workers who were trying to adapt to the new challenges.

And, in December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed just how widespread the recent spike in overdoses has become in the United States. In a 12-month period ending in May 2020, more than 81,000 Americans died of drug overdoses. It is the highest number ever in a one-year period. Although information on overdoses is delayed by months in Allegheny County, there are already 492 confirmed deaths in 2020 — as many as in all of 2018.

We talked to five people in the Pittsburgh area who have had to reckon with addiction during the pandemic, either because they are struggling themselves or because their loved ones have suffered through it. They shared stories of a crisis within a crisis.

(PublicSource chose not to use the last names of some people who shared their stories to protect their privacy.)


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