Those who track opioid overdoses in Nashville tell FOX 17 News during the pandemic, drug misuse trends have changed, and unfortunately could take years to get under control.
Trevor Henderson is MPHD’s Director of Opioid Overdose Response and Reduction Program. He says this past year has been tough, and he wishes he had better news to share.
“We thought 2018 and 2019 were bad. 2020 was worse. The beginning of this year shows no slow down in that trajectory, remaining pretty bad,” Henderson said.
He says a number of factors are contributing to this: financial instability, isolation, and the shift from mainly prescription opioids to illicit drugs bought on the street.
“It’s in and around 70%-80% of our deaths, Fentanyl is present, and to make that more complicated, we’re now seeing more stimulants mixed in that, so cocaine and other stimulants,” Henderson explained.
Another issue they’re running into is tracking where the drugs are coming from, since most of these overdoses can no longer be tied to prescribers.
“In 2017-2018, you had things like the CSMD where you could find out where the prescribing is coming from and why you’re getting that level, but when you’re seeing the drugs off the street, there is not data base to try and track that,” Henderson said.
He also says, they’ve seen a gradual spread of overdose deaths to different zip codes.
“In six months we’ll have zip codes that haven’t necessarily been on our radar pop up as hot spots, so trying to figure our exactly what’s going on in those areas requires a lot of coordination,” Henderson said.
He says even though the global pandemic is winding down, that doesn’t mean we should expect an improvement in our opioid death numbers.
“I wish we could say we have high hopes for this year, that things will start to get better, but we don’t. There’s so much that needs to change. This is not going to happen overnight. There’s no silver bullet. There’s no vaccine for addiction. This is going to be a long term change.
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