LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — COVID-19 is making another health crisis even worse in the U.S. — drug overdoses. The CDC says there have been a record number of deaths recently and the pandemic is playing a part in it.
The National Drug Helpline recently placed Nevada at an increased risk for overdose deaths. Experts say that is because the pandemic is putting a strain on our mental health — and for some, turning to drugs is a way to cope.
“It’s truly a one-day-at-a-time situation,” said Kortney Olson, a recovering addict who lives in Las Vegas.
The road to recovery is not easy. Take it from Olson, who became addicted to meth in high school.
Although she is now ten years into her recovery, COVID-19 isolation has presented the possibility of a relapse.
“When you’re up here in your head, it’s a dangerous neighborhood to be driving around by yourself,” Olson said.
The CDC says drug overdose deaths, most notably involving opioids, are accelerating during COVID-19. There were over 81,000 between May 2019 and May 2020 — the highest number ever recorded in a 12-month period.
The CDC adds that some of the largest increases have coincided with state shutdowns during the pandemic. And it is not slowing down; just last month in November, Nevada was placed on “red alert” status for increased risk of drug overdose deaths.
“They’re using heavily, more than they have,” Jennifer Vroman, Director of Nursing at Desert Hope Addiction Treatment Center.
Vroman says she is seeing more and more patients coming to her facility. And it’s not just people seeking treatment; there is also an alarming trend of those who need immediate assistance upon arrival.
“Many times, we’ve had to revive them because of the amount of drugs that are in their system,” Vroman said.
To combat this crisis, experts say early intervention and more access to naloxone, an opioid overdose antidote, are critical. For Kortney, it is also about staying connected — whether it is attending virtual recovery meetings or supporting others during this tough time.
“By me helping somebody else, that helps keep me sober,” Olson.
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug use, especially now during the pandemic, you can reach out to the following resources:
- Crisis Support Services of Nevada: 1-800-273-8255
- State Opioid Response Program: NVOpioidResponse.org