America is in the Midst of an Epidemic of Overdoses
Nationwide & Nevada Overdose Numbers Are Up Startlingly; Pointing to a Real Epidemic within the Pandemic
By Dave Marlon
September 11, 2020
According to the Hazelden-Betty Ford clinic, there has been a steady rise in drug overdoses since the pandemic began in early March. “We saw an 18 percent increase nationwide in overdoses in March, a 29 percent increase in April and a 42 percent increase in May,” said John Engebreth, who runs Minnesota Outpatient Services at Hazelden-Betty Ford.
In Utah as well, even more recent data has suggested that overdoses are on the rise, likely fueled by the increase in availability of the powerful drug Fentanyl – this is something being attributed to the disruption of the traditional opiate drug supply lines during the pandemic and the fact that 90% of Fentanyl is made right here in America.
Data from Utah Naloxone, has documented a rising number of overdoses. In August, they saw 175 overdose reversals, an increase from 125 they saw in July and 99 in June.
Again, a steady rise.
Even more alarming, US News & World Report recently reported that nearly 41% of adults surveyed this past summer “reported an adverse mental or behavioral health condition,” as a result of the stress from the pandemic and economic fallout.
Why is this happening?
It’s the well-known secret that America has been suffering through an opioid epidemic for decades, since the late 90’s, but it’s the fact that the pandemic has super charged stress and anxiety in American society, that is making these overdose numbers rise so drastically. Sadly, it’s not surprising. Whether it’s COVID or financial woes or just the yearn for normal human contact, which COVID has made incredibly complicated – there are a lot of stressors on people right now.
Relapsing or turning to drugs in a time of great stress – looking for that escape essentially, is something that is certainly relatable and very human.
The other component to the rise in overdoses is the increase of the availability of Fentanyl nationwide, and the fact that many police departments are reporting finding that Fentanyl has been laced into non-opioid drugs, such as Xanax or even marijuana, MOLLY, ecstasy, and more. Usually you only find Fentanyl on its own or mixed with Heroin or other opioids such as Percocet or Vicodin – an often-deadly cocktail.
What can be done to help?
TREATMENT TREATMENT and more TREATMENT. And education.
Detoxing from drugs is just the first step. Typically to treat an addiction, you have to treat the underlying mental illness that is driving the addiction. That means a comprehensive program that lasts much longer than 30 days.
Here at CrossRoads, and throughout my career in addiction services, I’ve seen time and time again that the real hope, the real healing, is done through proper treatment of patients, including the correct mix of medication and counseling, lifestyle services, including diet, exercise, job, and this extends for months and months after detox.
At the moment, the government is doing nearly nothing to help with the treatment of patients. One of the biggest obstacles to treatment is often that an addict can’t afford it, or it’s not covered by insurance. In this instance, a government program similar to Medicaid, or a state financed program, would be most helpful in terms of actually getting patients into rehab and into a bed. I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve had a willing patient, who desperately was seeking treatment, but by the time they managed to get the funds together, or got approved for Medicaid, they had either relapsed or their bed was gone. In instances like that, we are truly failing our fellow humans.
Narcan & Education
Narcan is very helpful in combating overdoses, and the more first responders, doctors, parents, etc… who are trained in how to successfully administer Narcan, will save lives.
Narcan can stop an overdose as it’s happening by counter acting the opioid in the patient’s system.
Just as important, if not more important, is educating families on proper addiction treatment techniques. One of the simplest things often overlooked when it comes to how families treat someone suffering through an active addiction – that there is a stigma or mental failing attached to it. Addiction is a disease, just like cancer or congestive heart failure – it is not a mental failing or moral problem.
Educating families in proper ways to treat, care for, and seek treatment for others going through addiction is crucial. Because of that, in the coming weeks, CrossRoads will be announcing a series of education seminars for families on addiction.
Where does this leave us?
There is no solving it unfortunately, there is only making it less harmful, unless we find our way into a Star Trek style utopian society. There will always be stress and anxiety and trauma and mental illness, and there will likely always be drugs available in one way or another, whether it’s drugs or alcohol.
Add in the pandemic and economic stress, and we aren’t in a good place. It’s no wonder that we’ve seen an uptick in overdoses in NV, and we’ve seen an uptick in beds filled at CrossRoads since March when the pandemic began.
But, as I write this on September 11th, 2020, I’m reminded of the hope that followed that dark day on September 11, 2001. I’m reminded that hope always follows darkness, and that the hope of entering recovery, getting a patient back on their feet and turning their life around, is why I got into this business. I’m constantly reminded of the hope there is in recovery every day, and I hope, as we move into the fall of 2020, we continue to provide that hope to our patients here at CrossRoads and around the country.