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Health professionals, Tennessee judges say the pandemic may worsen opioid crisis

While we may not immediately know the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has on the opioid crisis, officials say it will more than likely be negative.

TENNESSEE, USA — Experts are learning more every day about how the COVID-19 pandemic may affect opioid abuse. A virtual symposium hosted by Lincoln Memorial University Monday provided some insight.

Through a computer screen health professionals, LMU professors and Tennessee judges met to discuss the opioid epidemic during a global pandemic.

The main focus of the yearly symposium was to talk about Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACE, as they relate to opioid abuse. However, the topic of COVID-19 came up in multiple questions to panellists and speakers.

While fewer child abuse and opioid abuse cases are being reported right now, Fourth Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Duane Slone said on the video panel that the low number of reports won't last forever.

"We can expect a spike somewhere down the road as this new situation becomes more normalized," Slone explained. "We need to stay aware of that and keep our eye on that."

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Each speaker and panellist including Dr. Sarah Bacon, Senior Adviser of ACE at the CDC, educated over 2,100 people who tuned into the symposium about how this pandemic will not only affect current or relapsing addicts but children too.

"They're now at increased risk, simply because of time at home and because of the increased difficulty in accessing other resources," Bacon said.

The lack of available resources and opportunities for drug abusers and families at risk due to the pandemic can be classified as an Adverse Childhood Experience. The possibility of experiencing childhood trauma during the pandemic could lead to opioid abuse for kids later.

"These include things like child abuse, child neglect and some other household challenges," Bacon explained.    

Judges are continuing to see court cases through video calls but are worried about the lack of reports being filed when it comes to opioid and child abuse.

While it may be some time before experts determine the true effects the pandemic has on opioid abuse and overdoses, health professionals said the best thing that can be done right now is to reach out, report and help loved ones who may be in need.

The Tennessee REDLINE at 1-800-889-9789 is available to help people find resources and treatment. The Metro Drug Coalition in Knoxville can help connect people to resources as well.

RELATED: East Tennessee Opioid Conference draws hundreds to talk about solutions, marijuana