100K Americans died of drug overdoses over past year; Central Texas advocates blame pandemic

‘Pandemic isolated people who did not need to be isolated,’ advocate says
Published: Nov. 17, 2021 at 5:31 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Government researchers on Wednesday announced more than 100,000 Americans died within a year due to drug overdoses, the largest overdose death toll in history, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, who released the data.

The information covers a 12-month period between May 2020 to April 2021. The spike shown in the data is a 28.5 percent increase from the previous year.

Central Texas is not exempt from the nation-wide trend. The Heart of Texas MHMR Substance Use Division, which oversees Bosque, McLennan, Hill, Falls, Limestone and Freestone Counties, said it has seen a spike in the number of patients it treats for drug addiction.

Laura Weaver, the program director for the division, said the COVID-19 pandemic was part of the reason for the increase.

“When Covid hit, it isolated a lot of people that already did not need to be isolated. And some people who never dealt with substance abuse issues were now working from home and feeling alone and turned to alcohol and other drugs,” Weaver said.

Part of the reason for the spike, she added, is the prevalence of the deadly fentanyl in the illicit drug market.

The spike in drug addictions has put a strain on resources for those struggling. Weaver said addicts seeking in-patient treatment are having to wait 2-3 months for a bed at a facility as opposed to the usual 3-4 weeks.

Waco resident Richard Bradshaw battled drug addiction for a decade with three years of sobriety. He said he has overdosed on opioids three times, and even though he survived, he has seen friends die from their addiction.

“I lost a lot of people that were close to me and a lot of times to there were other people that were there but no one had Narcan and no one know what to do,” said Bradshaw.

Narcan is a drug that reverses opioid overdoses. Bradshaw started the organization Central Texas Harm Reduction in 2019 to provide Narcan to drug users and anyone who may come in contact with them.

There has been a shortage of naloxone, which is the generic version of Narcan because of a manufacturing issue. However, advocates continue to warn those struggling with addiction to seek help despite the strained resources.

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction, you can contact the Heart of Texas MHMR Substance Use Division at (254) 297-8999) or the Central Texas Harm Reduction at (210) 860-2443)

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