As the COVID pandemic took hold in 2020, admissions to substance abuse treatment plummeted. And they have failed to rebound. But overdoses continue to claim lives in Essex County.
Amissions to drug treatment in Essex County fell 46% between 2018 and 2021, from a rate of 161 per 10,000 people to just 87. This downward trend began in 2019, when the rate fell to 138, but has continued and even accelerated as the pandemic has abated. Year to year, the admission rate dropped 14% in 2019, 18% in 2020 and 23% in 2021.
Heroin and other opioids continue to drive an overwhelming share of treatment admissions. They are the primary drug associated with nearly half of all admissions in both Essex County and the state, followed by alcohol, which drives about a third of total admissions.
Yet, drug overdose deaths suggest there remains a consistent need for treatment. The rate of death from drug poisoning has more than tripled since 2000 to 35 per 100,000 residents in Essex County – similar to the state (34) and above the nation (30) and comparable counties (which range from 17 to 21). These figures include deaths from all types of drugs, and both accidental and intentional deaths. The fatality rate in Essex County has declined since a high of 41 in 2017, and maintained that positive trend through 2020.
Over the past 20 years, there hasn’t been as much of a change in drug-related arrests. The rate of arrests per 1,000 residents was the about the same in 2021 (1.1) as it was in 2000 (1). Arrests were higher in some years, including 2007-08 and 2013-16, but have fallen in recent years.
The available data only tell part of the story – we know that drug addiction has far-reaching effects. Addiction, overdoses, and arrests all disrupt the life of the user and their family, exacting health, financial and emotional costs. The availability of treatment in Essex County seems to be an important issue for further study and action.