Florida leaders concerned about opioid crisis worsening amid COVID-19 pandemic

Overdose by opioids No. 1 cause of death for those under 40 in Central Florida, Opioid Project founder says

ORLANDO, Fla. – There has been a rise in opioid use and overdoses during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the founder of the Opioid Project, Andrae Bailey, and the issue has caught the attention of Florida Rep. Geraldine Thompson.

Thompson hosted a virtual forum Tuesday morning to discuss the opioid epidemic with doctors and organizations a part of the conversation.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has absolutely, definitively, no question about it, exacerbated the opioid crisis,” said Dr. Aaron Wohl, an emergency medicine physician with the Veterans Administration Hospital in Orlando.

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Bailey said the number one cause of death for those under 40 years old in Central Florida is overdose by opioids.

“In 2020, we have seen a historic amount of individuals using drugs and overdosing, and dying of opioids in particular, at an alarming rate,” said Bailey.

He said during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the largest increase in overdose deaths of any demographic was in the African American community.

Bailey said during the quarantine months of March, April, May and June, overdose deaths among African Americans was up by 110%, which, according to Bailey, is the largest increase they’ve ever seen, adding that the increase is considerably higher than any other demographic group.

Bailey said according to a data survey they did of over 1,700 Floridians, they found other groups were impacted: millennials and teenagers.

“We had to go into these quarantines and lockdowns because of a historic pandemic, but none of us realized the mental health toll that that would take on our young people,” Bailey said.

The conversation also offered up resources like Aspire Health Partners, who offers services to those with opioid addiction.

Another resource that was mentioned on the call was a medication called Narcan, which a doctor on the call described as an opioid reversal drug.

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