Drug overdoses spike 30%, COVID pandemic could be partly to blame

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The COVID-19 pandemic could be to blame for a large increase in drug overdoses from 2018 to 2020.

Utah’s local addiction treatment centers said losing the social and emotional connection is a big reason why the numbers are up.

There are several factors contributing to the drug overdose increase. From 2019 to 2020, it increased 30%, and from 1999 to now, it increased 450%.

“I just actually celebrated 20 years of recovery on the 11th,” said Odyssey House Millcreek Program Manager Ann Coburn. “I was just really motivated honestly to prove people wrong who thought I was going to fail.”

Coburn was in her clients’ shoes 22 years ago. She battled drug addiction and needed help, so now she is repaying the favor by helping the place that once helped her.

“It just takes one person to believe in you and see the good,” said Coburn.

The good is that Odyssey House lets people come and go to get the help they want or need. The bad is that numbers show drug overdoses are exponentially increasing.

The CDC data showed from 2018 to 2020, there were 26,000 more drug overdoses nationwide. That’s just about the same number of drug overdoses in 2004 alone.

“I think as we saw people who were more isolated and cut off from their social supports and their sober connections, I think that contributes a lot,” said Coburn.

A lot of the drug overdoses are prevented by Naloxone, known as Narcan, that Unified Police Patrol Officers must carry on them.

“We have responded on a lot of those calls for service,” said Sgt. Melody Cutler.

Cutler said the pandemic is partially to blame.

“I think its just one of those things that went along with the pandemic,” said Cutler. “The interesting things that we saw whether people were feeling isolated or depressed, job loss, all those things, all contributing to an increase drug usage.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction, you can get help. The Odyssey House accepts anybody who needs it.

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