Winter is a tough time for a lot of people. They may stay at home and be limited from doing activities that they love. They might feel isolated or depressed because of seasonal affective disorder or because of being unable to see family and friends as often as usual.
Whatever the reason is, this kind of isolation and change in the weather conditions tends to lead to an increase in opioid abuse. On top of that, winter weather makes it more likely that opioid abuse will lead to overdoses.
What Are the Main Causes of Opioid Abuse In the Winter?
Opioid abuse increases in the winter for a few reasons. Some of them may include:
- Being isolated from others
- Feeling depressed or having pain from the cold or overcast nature of winter
- A lack of normal activities, such as spring, summer, or fall sports
Since people are more likely to be alone, there is also a risk that they will use more drugs than usual. If they are with others, they may stay home and use, which could increase their overall intake.
How Does a Dual Diagnosis Affect Opioid Use In the Winter?
Since some patients may struggle with anxiety, depression or other seasonal mental health concerns, they may attempt to cope by using opioids. Unfortunately, this is more likely to lead to chronic heroin use (or any other opioid) and increases the risk of overdosing. Patients who are struggling with mental health disorders, such as seasonal affective disorder, may benefit from seeking dual-diagnosis treatment alongside drug addiction treatment, so they minimize the risk of overdosing or increasing their opioid use over the winter months. Consider the following treatment options at Sunstone:
Does Cold Weather Increase the Risk of Fatal Overdoses?
Yes. A study from 2019 at Brown University found that cold snaps increased the risk of fatal opioid overdoses by around a quarter. The study determined that opioid overdoses were 25% more likely when temperatures dropped below freezing compared to when there was an average temperature of 52 degrees Fahrenheit.
Why does cold weather increase the risk of a fatal overdose? That’s because opioids have an impact on respiration. It’s believed that it’s already more difficult to breathe in cold conditions, so combining that with respiratory depression increases the likelihood of a fatal event.
Some opioids also lower the temperature at which the body begins to shiver, which means that the individual may get too cold before the body responds. This may lead to hypothermia and death if left unrecognized.
Another reason why opioids are more likely to lead to fatal overdoses in the winter is because of the likelihood of using alone. When people use opioids alone, they are not with anyone who can deliver the life-saving drug naloxone in an emergency. Since they are alone, people may be more likely to use more opioids than usual, increasing the risk of fatal respiratory depression and other side effects.
The study also addressed the fact that most overdoses happened indoors, which draws attention to the fact that some people may not be paying for heating or other utilities that could save their lives.
Contact Sunstone Recovery for Winter Drug Use Support
At Sunstone Recovery, we know that the winter months can be hard. They isolate many patients from friends and loved ones, cause them to stay inside, and may hurt their ability to seek help. Our team is fully remote, so we can help you or a loved one tackle heroin use or heroin addiction from home. Our virtual intensive outpatient program could help, even if you’re feeling isolated now. Contact us at 855.833.9199, or contact us online to learn more about our available programs.