Opioid overdoses increased 20% in Ala. in 2020

Updated: Apr. 21, 2021 at 9:32 AM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Alabama saw a 20 percent increase in drug overdoses in 2020.

The Alabama Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council is raising awareness about the increased number of opioid overdose deaths.

Opioids are drugs such as heroin, fentanyl and prescription medications like hydrocodone and oxycodone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an official Health Advisory on December 17, 2020, alerting healthcare professionals of a “substantial increase in drug overdose deaths across the United States, primarily driven by rapid increases in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, excluding methadone, likely illicitly manufactured fentanyl.”

This is a frightening statistic from the CDC: Illicitly manufactured fentanyl is now known to be present in all street drugs, including heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and counterfeit prescription pills.

Jefferson County Health Department leaders said fentanyl overdose deaths rose 94% in the first quarter of 2021, when compared to the first quarter of 2020.

According to the CDC, there were 81,230 drug overdose deaths in the United States in the 12 months ending May 2020, the largest number ever recorded for a 12-month period.

During that period, drug overdoses increased more than 20% in Alabama, resulting in the state being one of 25 with the highest increase.

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said, “The crisis of opioid use and addiction reaches all strata of society in significant ways, and the COVID-19 pandemic has created additional challenges. We encourage the friends and families of people with substance use disorders to educate themselves about the lifesaving use of naloxone and to support their loves ones in seeking and receiving care without judgment or blame.”

The ongoing anti-stigma campaign, Stop Judging, Start Healing, initially focused on the public but is now being extended to provide education to healthcare providers.

In partnership with the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH), the Jefferson County Department of Health (JCDH) developed an online training platform for individuals around the state to receive naloxone training and receive a free naloxone kit by mail. Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can reverse an opioid overdose. It is available as an easily administered nasal spray (also known as Narcan®) or injection. The training takes less than 15 minutes. Individuals may access the training on the JCDH website at www.jcdh.org and search naloxone or Narcan®.

Help is available for those struggling with substance use through a free 24/7 substance use helpline at 1-844-307-1760. This is a statewide service sponsored by the Alabama Department of Mental Health and staffed by peer recovery support specialists from the Recovery Organization of Support Specialists (ROSS) to help individuals navigate treatment and recovery systems.

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