Overdose deaths rose 30 percent in US during 2020
WORCESTER COUNTY, MD- Deaths from overdoses rose in 2020 by nearly 30 percent or 90,000 deaths nationally.
Experts are attributing the increase to isolation and lack of interactions, pointing to how covid disrupted routines that many who struggle with addiction relied on.
“People going through addiction recovery, depend on routine and on community, on meeting others, going to the gym and all the things that people could not do as a result of this pandemic,” said Executive Director of Worcester Goes Purple Warriors Against Addiction Debbie Smollen.
Smollen’s organization works to hand out Narcan, a medication that can reverse the effects of an overdose, as well as counseling and rehabilitation services for those suffering from addiction in Worcester County.
According to the Worcester County Health Department, stresses and anxieties of covid lead many people to turn to drugs as a way of coping with grief and trauma.
“If you are stuck in those same patterns those same behaviors it just feels like you are spinning your wheels,” said Worcester County Health spokesman Travis Brown.
Brown says that Worcester County was able to reduce the number of overdose deaths they’ve seen in the last year by nearly 60 percent.
He says that administering and training community members on how to administer Narcan was key, but points to medication and counseling services that addressed the underlying causes for people abusing drugs, and preventing overdoses before they happen.
“We did recognize there are a lot of those same issues where people are having problems with the isolation of covid the stress and that really some people just need a shoulder some days they just need someone to ask how are you ?” Brown said.
Brown believes that often the hardest part of getting help for addicts is overcoming the stigma and being able to ask for help.
“If someone you know is hurting it’s so hard to take that first step, but once you do you want to take the second one and third one and you want to take that comprehensive journey,” he said.
Worcester County Health Department is able to provide services like counseling from former addicts and medical intervention that can ween the dependence that those suffering from addictions have on the substances they abuse.
Brown says the county has been using the covid-vaccine program as a way to make inroads and reach out to addicts, offering them more services when people come in for a vaccine dose.
Smollen’s Warriors Against Addiction used to go into the communities suffering from addiction directly, handing out Narcan, training people how to use it, and offering additional services, a program she says was halted during the pandemic to prevent further spread of covid-19.
Smollen believes that services that help those suffering where they are, will make a return.
“Despite those [National Overdose Numbers], even though this is a disappointing turn, we are still going to be there, we still believe in recovery and we want everyone to get help,” she said adding “despite a long battle we still have a long way to fight.”