With each day that passes, the number of lives lost in COVID-19-related deaths continues to tragically grow. However, in a less noticed but equally important trend, we continue to gain insight into the countless deaths caused by lockdown measures intended to stop the virus’s spread.
The latest entry into this tragic account is a new data set showing drug overdose deaths skyrocketed in 2020 amid the height of pandemic lockdowns.
“New data shows that more Americans died of drug overdoses in the year leading to September 2020 than any 12-month period since the opioid epidemic began,” Axios reports. “The stubborn increase of such ‘deaths of despair’ shows that the opioid epidemic still has room to grow and that some of the social distancing steps we took to rein in the pandemic may have brought deadly side effects.”
Released this week by the Centers for Disease Control, the figures show that at least 87,000 people died from overdoses from October 2019 to September 2020. This amounts to a 29 percent increase from the same period in the previous year.
How do we know pandemic lockdowns are largely to blame?
Well, this measured period includes spring and summer 2020, the two periods in the pandemic to date where lockdowns were strictest and most widespread. And, Axios reports, “While overdose deaths from drugs had begun rising in the months leading to the pandemic... the biggest spike in deaths occurred in April and May 2020, when shutdowns were strictest.” (Emphasis mine).
Meanwhile, studies show that people used more drugs during the pandemic and were more likely to use alone—increasing the risk of deadly overdoses. These trends are clearly driven more by the isolation, despair, and loneliness of pandemic lockdowns than the virus itself.
Of course, more people overdosing on drugs isn’t at all what proponents of strict pandemic lockdowns wanted. In most cases, they sincerely wanted to protect people. But good intentions don’t guarantee good results, and sweeping government action is a blunt hammer that’s always going to hit more than just the nail it’s aimed at.
“Lawmakers should be keenly aware that every human action has both intended and unintended consequences,” FEE’s Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan have explained. “Human beings react to every rule, regulation, and order governments impose, and their reactions result in outcomes that can be quite different than the outcomes lawmakers intended. So while there is a place for legislation, that place should be one defined by both great caution and tremendous humility.”
Sweeping, unprecedented government lockdowns were anything but cautious and humble. And while the actual public health benefits of lockdowns are unclear, the deadly unintended consequences they caused are painfully obvious.