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Experts fear stimulus checks could be linked to more drug overdoses

Posted at 4:23 PM, Jan 19, 2021

There's concern about how some people may be spending their stimulus money.

"You give them any kind of money, but when you give them $600, they're going to really take it to the limit and that really will raise your chances of losing your life,” said Thomas Gooch, Prevention Director at Street Works, a Nashville-area HIV advocacy center that also runs a needle exchange program

Street Works reported an increase in overdoses after the first round of stimulus payments. They started handing out Narcan alongside clean syringes ahead of the latest payments.

Extra money can feed any vice. People admitted that in a Wallet Hub survey earlier this year that determined almost 24 million Americans will buy drugs, alcohol or tobacco with their stimulus money.

There is no large-scale scientific research that we could find on if an influx of cash can directly cause more overdoses. But there is plenty of data that shows overdoses and drug-related deaths do increase as unemployment rises.

Those familiar with addiction have seen it first-hand.

“And I'm in recovery myself, so that's why I do the work that I do and that's why I'm on this ground running because I know what addiction will do to people,” said Gooch.

There were more than 81,000 overdose deaths in the 12 months between May 2019 and May 2020. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that's the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period.

More than $4 billion was designated for mental and substance abuse disorders in the latest COVID-19 relief bill.