Studies show Covid links to opioid overdoses and poor mental health

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – New studies show the negative effects Covid has had on people’s mental health, and the way they deal with those emotions. 

Interventional Pain Specialists clinical psychologist Dr. Kristen Andrews has treated patients with chronic pain since 2010. She makes it her mission to look at both the physical and mental, emotional struggles that her patients encounter.

She said that the people she sees living in a constant state of pain are already at a three times higher likelihood of developing anxiety and depression, and fear of Covid only adds further strain to their mental health.

“Our patients are definitely feeling that. They were already struggling with living with a chronic pain condition every day on top of all of the stress that the pandemic is putting on them,” said Andrews.

In fact, Andrews reported that over 30 percent of Kentuckians say they’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression due to the pandemic. 

“For so long we’ve been socially isolating, and as the numbers went down and people are getting back out, they’re thinking they have forgotten how to talk to people, how to be in a group without feeling nervous or anxious about Covid and all that that represents,” said Andrews.

Andrews said that patients with chronic pain are at high risk for other symptoms like diabetes, hypertension and cardiac issues. She sees her patients struggle with the idea that these underlying health issues make them more likely to experience negative Covid related conditions. 

Andrews said that from September 2019 to September 2020, the state has seen a 50 percent increase in overdoses. At this period of time, Kentucky ranked the third highest in overdoses in the nation.

“It’s like Covid has suddenly been seen as a national relapse trigger,” Andrews noted.

Med Center Health, Director of Psychiatric Services Dr. Jan Funk supervises about 40 staff members who help both in-patient and out-patient units. She, too, has heard of the rise in opioid overdoses, and said it’s not too hard to connect the dots to the pandemic. Her thoughts are with her staff. 

“Our staff is hurt and burdened, and angry, and resentful and all those things. They’re feeling all those emotions,” said Funk. “But they’re here. They’re a tough bunch. As is the entire staff in this hospital. We’re resilient, but hurting, and scared and just like everybody else.”

Funk referenced the Bill Withers song “Lean on Me”, saying her staff, their patients and the rest of this world can make it through these times if they find somebody to lean on. 

“I challenge everybody today to find that somebody and also, even more importantly, be that somebody. If we all do that, if I could coin a phrase, we shall overcome,” said Funk.