As the coronavirus pandemic raged on, the CDC said nearly 100,000 people lost their lives to drugs in 12 months. Almost 10% of the overdose deaths reported happened in Florida, according to the data.
The CDC released provisional drug overdose death counts from March 2020 to March 2021. The numbers show nationwide there were 96,779 overdose deaths reported in the 12 month period, which is an increase of almost 30%.
Florida reported similar results. According to the CDC data, 7,700 deaths were reported during the time period, which made up 8% of the nationwide deaths. The data shows that was a 28% increase.
Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood and Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma said they are not surprised by the numbers.
“What’s alarming is these numbers continue to increase,” Lemma said.
Both sheriffs said they are seeing a rise in overdoses in their counties.
“We’ve seen a 9% increase in that time period from 2020 to 2021,” Chitwood said.
Lemma said they’ve had 677 overdoses in Seminole County since the beginning of the year.
“Which is nearly a 20% increase from last year. Ninety-seven deaths, which is a 15% increase,” Lemma said.
News 6 has been following Central Florida’s response to the opioid crisis. Lemma said since Jan. 1, they’ve used Narcan 627 times to save people from overdosing. Drug counselors in Volusia County are going into hospitals to help patients who overdose. In Marion County, there is an all-encompassing facility where addicts at any stage can come for every kind of treatment.
Dr. Elena Cyrus is an assistant professor of medicine at UCF. She has spent the last 10 years researching addiction.
She said stress from the COVID-19 pandemic could be contributing to the rise in substance use disorders.
“Basically amplified that experience and also extended not only to vulnerable populations but even just the general population,” Cyrus said. “So we see, in terms of the data, the higher levels of substance use and also depression even among people who didn’t report mental health issues before.”
Lemma adds holding dealers accountable, as well as getting people the help they need will help us overcome the opioid crisis.
“We have to pull together we have to talk about this to increase awareness and we have to help our brothers and sisters out to get through this,” Lemma said.
Chitwood adds addiction and mental health services need funding to help those overcoming substance abuse.
“Making sure we have the resources available to help these folks beat that addiction and get on with their life,” Chitwood said.