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Substance Abuse and Overdose Deaths Are on the Rise

Substance Abuse and Overdose Deaths Are on the Rise

The United States has been battling an opioid epidemic for many years.  But, since the beginning of the virus pandemic, substance abuse and overdose deaths have increased significantly.  

According to the CDC

“The disruption to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit those with substance use disorder hard.  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.”

As the virus continues to place further restrictions on our lives, more people are likely to succumb to the dangers of substance use.

What’s Causing the Increases in Substance Abuse and Overdose Deaths?

The virus pandemic exacerbated the opioid crisis in several ways.  As people struggle to cope with fear and anxiety during the lockdowns, many turn to drugs or alcohol for solace.  

Some people began using alcohol, prescription anti-anxiety meds, or antidepressants for the first time during the pandemic.  All of these substances can be highly addictive and dangerous if abused or used in combination with each other.  

Others turned to street drugs such as cocaine, heroin, meth, or others.  Unfortunately, many street drugs are laced with fentanyl, but drug dealers don’t reveal that information.  So, the individuals who buy those drugs are often unaware of the deception.  If they don’t already have a tolerance for opioids, they can easily overdose on fentanyl-enhanced street drugs.

Another contributing factor in the increased substance abuse and overdose deaths is the shortage of professional treatment programs.  As a result of the pandemic, many treatment providers closed their facilities or had to limit their services.  

Also, individuals who are in recovery found that their support system has been disrupted.  They can no longer attend in-person group counseling sessions or self-help programs due to the lockdowns.  Many of those venues were forced to close in response to social distancing mandates.  Without their much-needed support, many of these individuals relapse.

Furthermore, many people who want or need treatment are afraid to expose themselves to the risks of group settings such as a rehab facility.  According to the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, some members saw their patient numbers decrease by 40% or more.  

These situations have led to many relapses, overdoses, and deaths since the pandemic began.  

Shocking Statistics Reveal a Deadly Trend

Since the pandemic began, overdose deaths are up by more than 20,000 deaths compared to those recorded in 2019.  The total number of fatal overdoses recorded in 2020 reached 93,331.  Opioid-related deaths played a large role in these numbers.  Here’s a breakdown of the increases, according to CDC data:

  • Deaths attributed to synthetic opioids increased by 54%.
  • Overdose deaths related to cocaine increased 21%.
  • Fatal overdoses attributed to meth and other psychostimulants rose by 46%.

These increases span across all demographic groups.

The primary driver of the increased fatal overdoses is illicitly manufactured opioids such as fentanyl.  

What Can be Done to Reduce Overdoses and Deaths?

Measures are being taken on local, state, and national levels to address the substance abuse and overdose death rates.  The CDC is working with first responders, public health professionals, and harm reduction organizations, and community leaders to expand response and prevention resources.  

Their agenda includes some of the following actions and recommendations in their Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) Plan:

  • Expand overdose prevention education to empower individuals to make informed decisions.
  • Increase availability and distribution of naloxone.
  • Improve detection of outbreaks to facilitate an effective response.
  • Increase availability of and access to substance abuse treatment programs.
  • Provide early intervention for high-risk individuals.

Across the nation, thousands of prevention and education advocates work tirelessly to save lives from the devastation substance abuse brings.   But, there’s much more that needs to be done to resolve the overdose crisis.  

When addiction happens, the best recourse is professional treatment.  Most people who try to quit on their own will relapse.  In some cases, fatal overdose is the outcome.   So, it’s never a good idea to try the cold-turkey approach.  A person who is trying to overcome substance abuse needs a combination of physical and emotional therapy to effectively rid their mind and body of the addiction.  

Cycles of Change Recovery: Where You’ll Learn to Live Drug-Free

Learning to live drug-free involves first ridding your body of the physical dependence on a drug.  This is known as detox, and many people think it is a cure for addiction. The truth is, there is no “cure” for substance abuse.  It requires determination and a lifelong commitment.  Therefore, you’ll need therapy and counseling to address the emotional and mental issues that played a role in your drug use.  This combination of treatment methods ensures that you are equipped to maintain sobriety after leaving our facility.  

At Cycles of Change Recovery, we will help you identify the underlying reasons for your substance abuse.  With this knowledge, you’ll be prepared to make the changes in your life that will keep you focused on your recovery goals.  

With our individualized approach to treatment, you’ll regain the confidence and self-esteem that was damaged by drug abuse.  You’ll also learn practical coping skills to help you stand strong when temptations arise.

Are you ready to claim your freedom from addiction?  If so, learn more about our program by contacting our Palmdale, CA facility today.  


  • cdc.gov/ – Overdose Deaths Accelerating During COVID-19
  • cdc.gov/ – Overdose Data to Action
Stigma: Mental Health & Substance Abuse

Stigma: Mental Health & Substance Abuse

The stigma surrounding mental health and substance abuse has prevented many people from getting the help they need.  When family, friends, or society have negative perceptions about mental health or drug use, their beliefs are often based on preconceptions, generalizations, or assumptions.  These preconceived, often unfounded, perceptions are hard to change.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 

“Stigma is a set of negative beliefs that a group or society holds about a topic or group of people.”

“Stigma is a major cause of discrimination and exclusion and it contributes to the abuse of human rights.”

Perceived stigma can result in avoidance, rejection, prejudice, or discrimination against a person.  As a result, it can harm a person’s self-esteem and prevent them from seeking treatment. 

How Stigma Impedes Addiction Treatment

Substance abuse and addiction are often underdiagnosed and under-treated because of stigma.  Unfortunately, many people who use drugs or have mental health issues are often flagged as “drug-seekers” when they seek medical help.  As a result, they avoid emergency rooms or clinics.  Therefore, they don’t get a proper medical assessment or referral for the treatment that they need.  In many instances, fatal overdose is the outcome.  

Public stigma and personal shame are formidable obstacles to addiction treatment.  Here are a few ways stigma interferes with a person’s ability to get the treatment they desperately need:

  • Think they must hit “rock-bottom” before they need treatment.
  • Fear losing their job if they enter a treatment program.
  • Afraid of being seen as “weak” if they enter rehab.
  • Unsure of being able to rejoin society after treatment.

Someone with co-occurring mental health issues and substance abuse often feels rejected by society.  So, they isolate themselves and try to hide their drug use to avoid stigma and shaming. Over time, their substance use and mental health disorders get worse.  

If we, as a society, can accept and treat these disorders as valid medical conditions, many lives can be saved.

Importance of Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

It’s difficult to determine which came first, the mental illness or the substance abuse issue.  In most cases, a person struggles with both disorders concurrently.  Someone with mental health problems often uses drugs as a form of self-medication and may develop an addiction to the substance.  On the other hand, a person with a prolonged substance abuse history may have mental or emotional problems due to the drug in their system.

When someone struggles with these co-occurring disorders, the best treatment option is a dual-diagnosis program.  These programs are equipped to address both the physical and mental factors to ensure the most favorable outcome.   

Cycles of Change Recovery offers a unique approach to treating co-occurring disorders.  For instance, Biosound Therapy helps patients who have mental health and substance use issues. This therapy uses vibrational patterns that relax the nervous system to relieve symptoms of stress, anger, racing thoughts, fearfulness, and more.  We also offer 12-step programs, meditation and yoga, family therapy, and psychodrama therapy as part of our comprehensive dual-diagnosis treatment.

Words Matter:  Destigmatizing Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorders

Words are powerful tools.  They can evoke many feelings, beliefs, emotions, and fears.  As such, researchers believe the stigma surrounding substance abuse or mental health disorders can be minimized or eliminated by using different terms.  For instance, when referring to addiction or mental health the following guidelines are suggested:

Stigmatizing Language Recommended Language
Addict A person with substance use disorder
Addicted to X Has an X use disorder
Addiction Substance use disorder (SUD)
Alcoholic A person suffering from alcohol addiction
Drug abuser A person who uses drugs
Reformed addict A person in recovery
Recreational drug user Someone who uses drugs for non-medical reasons
Mentally ill, psycho, insane Has a mental health challenge
Mental health patient Is receiving mental health services
Committed suicide Died by suicide

The recommended language acknowledges the person before the condition.  It reduces the negative connotations evoked by stigmatizing language.  

Public perceptions are often swayed by words or images.  With this in mind, correcting stereotypes and misconceptions is a big step toward helping people get effective treatment.

Other ways to contribute to reducing stigma include:

  • showing respect to people who are affected by substance abuse and mental health
  • learning more about addiction and mental health
  • supporting resources for those who struggle with these disorders.

Rediscover the Joy of Being You with Cycles of Change Recovery

At Cycles of Change Recovery, we realize the complexities of addiction.  We know that addiction involves a combination of factors such as depression, PTSD, low self-esteem, anxiety, environmental influences, and more.  During your time in our facility, we will first address the physical aspect of addiction with our onsite detox program.  Then, you’ll receive the highest level of therapy to address the emotional or mental aspects.  

Contact us today at our Palmdale, California facility if you’re ready to rediscover the joy of healthy, drug-free living.  


California Here It Comes:  Fentanyl

California Here It Comes:  Fentanyl

Through the years, Americans have looked to Califonia as a trendsetter.  We expect that whatever happens there will eventually spread to the rest of the country.  Some of the trends are good, some are not.  

Many of our fashion, food, fitness, and lifestyle trends originated in California.  However, despite California’s influence on many American trends, the state isn’t responsible for the fentanyl epidemic sweeping the nation today. 

Beware California, fentanyl is your next big problem.

According to the San Franciso public health department, when fentanyl is sold on the streets, it is clearly labeled.  As a result of the labeling, people who buy the drug know what they’re getting.  This helps them take necessary precautions when using fentanyl.  

To date, the city has a low death rate from fentanyl due to the well-funded harm-reduction practices.  One such practice involves making Narcan widely available to help reduce overdoses.

But, those things are about to change dramatically.  Fentanyl is gradually making its way into every city in the state.

What’s causing California’s spike in fentanyl overdose deaths?

Addiction expert Kelly Pfeifer, from the Califonia Health Care Foundation (CHCF), had this to say about fentanyl use in the state in 2019:

“Here in California, we felt lucky we weren’t seeing the same kind of devastation from the opioid epidemic that was occurring on the other side of the country.” 

But, since then, the number of fentanyl overdoses has steadily risen in California.  Fentanyl-laced cocaine found its way into Los Angeles, causing many overdose deaths.  Furthermore, during the COVID-19 lockdowns, more people died from drug overdoses than from the virus itself.  

Statistics reveal an alarming trend in California.

According to the San Francisco Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, 708 accidental drug overdose deaths occurred from January – December 2020, compared to 254 COVID-19 deaths.  Statistics reveal that fentanyl ranked highest as a cause of fatal overdoses above heroin, opioids, meth, or cocaine.  

Part of the overdose increase is due to a disruption in social services during the virus pandemic.  Many addiction treatment programs closed during the pandemic.  But, addiction treatment is only one of the services that were negatively affected by the lockdowns.  Programs that provided support, Naloxone, or clean syringes also cut back on their services.  

Prolonged isolation is another factor that contributed to increased overdose deaths nationwide.  People often used fentanyl or other drugs while in lockdown alone.  If an overdose occurred, no one was around to provide life-saving assistance, administer Naloxone, or call 911.

San Franciso Board of Supervisors member, Matt Haney, gave this statement to the Wall Street Journal:

“We see the death and devastation getting worse right in front of us.  It’s an unprecedented spiraling, directly connected to the introduction of fentanyl in our city.”

In Las Vegas, fentanyl-related deaths among the homeless rose 26% last year.  Also, in San Francisco, 135 people have died from an overdose in January and February of 2021.  

Clearly, the fentanyl epidemic has arrived in California to continue spreading devastation from coast to coast.

How is the state responding to increased overdose deaths?

California has launched a campaign of opioid safety projects to enhance addiction treatment and prevent deaths.  In the past, there has been a shortage of effective, affordable treatment in the state.  Also, far too many people view substance abuse as a lack of willpower.   CHCF’s goal is to reduce this stigma surrounding addiction and create a new perspective.  

Also, advocates from addiction treatment facilities, public health institutions, hospitals, law enforcement, and more are working together to find effective methods for solving the opioid epidemic.  They provide physicians with updated prescribing guidelines, increase access to Naloxone, and expand the availability of treatment programs.  

The California Overdose Prevention Network (COPN) is another example of how the state is working on viable solutions to the opioid problem.  Also, the Inland Empire Opioid Crisis Coalition (EOCC) works diligently to reduce underage opioid use and improve the quality of life in the community.

Doing our part to reduce fentanyl overdoses.

The best way to prevent overdose deaths is to stop addictions.  At Cycles of Change Recovery, we want to be a part of the solution to the fentanyl crisis.  To accomplish this goal, we offer a comprehensive treatment program that helps individuals overcome fentanyl addiction.  

We believe anyone can overcome addiction with treatment that focuses on healing the person psychologically, emotionally, and socially.  Addiction encompasses more than the physical act of using drugs or alcohol.  Many other factors are involved that contribute to a person’s substance use.  With that in mind, we created a program to include various modalities customized to each client’s specific needs.    

Our program includes detox, rehabilitation, and aftercare services.  Through each stage of treatment, our clients are treated as unique individuals who deserve respect and compassion.

If you need help with fentanyl abuse or addiction, contact us at our Palmdale, California facility.  We offer a comforting environment where you can feel secure as you heal at your own pace.  Your success in overcoming addiction is important to us, so call now to learn how we can help you achieve lasting recovery.


  • sf.gov – Report on Accidental Overdose Deaths
  • wsj.com – Fentanyl has Spread West and Overdoses are Surging
  • chcf.org – How CHCF Helped California Respond to the Opioid Epidemic

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