In 2018, opioid overdoses claimed about 47,000 American lives. Last year, federal authorities reported that 5.4 million middle and high school students vaped. And just two months ago, about 2,800 cases of vaping-associated lung injuries resulted in hospitalizations; 68 people died.
Until mid-March, these numbers commanded attention. But as the coronavirus death toll climbs and the economic costs of attempting to control its spread wreak havoc, the public health focus is now dramatically different.
In the background, though, these other issues — the opioid epidemic and vaping crisis — persist in heaping complications on an overwhelmed public health system.
It is creating a distinctly American problem, said Dr. Nora Volkow, who heads the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Volkow spoke with Kaiser Health News about the emerging science around COVID-19’s relationship to vaping and to opioid use disorder, as well as how these underlying epidemics could increase people’s