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Drug overdoses spike in Louisiana during the pandemic

Published: Dec. 1, 2020 at 6:59 PM CST
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) -Opioids, by definition, are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription.

They are also a problem many people feel uncomfortable to talk about but an issue that’s becoming increasingly common.

“A tremendous increase in overdose deaths, especially this year”, said Nicholas E. Goeders, Ph.D. Chair of the Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology & Neuroscience and Executive Director of the Louisiana Addiction Research Center (LARC) at LSU Health Shreveport.

Last year in Louisiana, over 13,000 people visited the emergency room due to drug poisoning.

More than 500 people died from opioid-involved incidents.

According to state health officials like Dr. Nickolas Goeders, those numbers are only getting worse.

“And I just read a report yesterday that was put out by the University of Maryland. I believe that said not is there an increase in opioid-related overdose but opioids in combination with other drugs.”

That combination of opioids with other hard drugs is known as polysubstance abuse.

The type of drugs that doctors see in most of these overdose cases and opioids are stimulant drugs like methamphetamines and cocaine.

“It may be that they can get opioids today and they can’t find them tomorrow, and they get methamphetamine or another drug. They take that the next day so that all the drugs show up in their system. When they start taking more than one drug and possibly a drug they aren’t used to taking before that increases the risk of an overdose.”

The Covid 19 pandemic is undoubtedly the driving force for the heightened stress that has strengthened current drug use and impacts addiction.

Similar to previous historical events that trigger stress, the pandemic is no different.

“Here in Louisiana, you can remember the hurricanes, Katrina and Rita. It was documented that there was an increase in alcohol use and abuse then. Even back in 2008 and 2009, the economic problems associated with it resulted in an increase in substance use across the country” said Goeders.

Experts say it all starts with education.

Addressing the rampant drug use not only in louisiana but across the country is a joint effort.

“This is a problem, and those of us in the medical profession can start to address it from our side as well to come up with better ways to address it because this is something unlike what we’ve ever seen before.”

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