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Positive drug tests spike during pandemic

Illicit drug use appears to be scaling up in the United States since COVID-19 was declared a national emergency, a newly released report shows, and Ohio is in a region that is experiencing even higher rates of positive tests (Source: “Positive drug tests rising with coronavirus pandemic, report shows,” Cincinnati Enquirer, Sept. 24).

The report was co-authored by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department and drug-testing company Millennium Health and published in JAMA. Researchers found that after COVID-19 was declared an emergency, patients were: 67% more likely to test positive for fentanyl; 23% more likely to test positive for meth; 33% more likely to test positive for heroin; and 19% more likely to test positive for cocaine.

The Millennium Health study tracked drug use trends by evaluating 150,000 patients' urine drug tests and compared test results from before COVID-19 was declared a national emergency (Nov. 14, 2019, to March 12, 2020) to the period during COVID-19 (March 13, 2020, to July 10, 2020).

In the East North Central region, which includes Ohio, patients were:

  • 93% more likely to test positive for fentanyl.
  • 34% more likely to test positive for meth.
  • 59% more likely to test positive for heroin.
  • 31% more likely to test positive for cocaine.

Earlier this month, the Ohio Department of Public Safety announced that it is collaborating with the lab to become the first state to use real-time drug use trends data as a way to rapidly direct public health responses to the evolving addiction crisis.