According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. has seen an increase in opioid overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 83,544 Americans overdosing during the 12-month period ending July 1, 2020, the most ever recorded in a 12-month period. The increase in drug overdose deaths appeared to begin prior to the COVID-19 health emergency, but accelerated significantly during the first months of the pandemic.
Opioid use disorder — often called drug addiction or dependence — has had a devastating impact here in Columbia County when you look at the number of lives we’ve lost, families broken apart, and the financial burden placed on medical professionals, law enforcement, and social services. For the period of January 1st to April 20th, Columbia County has seen a 45% increase in suspected non-fatal overdoses, from 20 in 2020 to 29 in 2021 for the period stated and a 100% increase in suspected fatal overdoses, from 2 in 2020 to 4 in 2021 for the period stated.
Early intervention and prevention efforts are essential strategies for helping end opioid overdoses. One way to protect your loved ones from opioid use disorder is by participating in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Drug Take Back Day 10 a.m.-2 p.m. April 24. Individuals can properly and safely dispose of their leftover or expired medication at a collection site. Columbia County sites for this weekend are Hudson City Police Dept. 703a Union St. Hudson; Columbia County Sheriff’s Office at 85 Industrial Tract Hudson; Chatham Police Dept. at 77 Main St. Chatham; and Columbia Memorial Hospital Emergency Dept. 71 Prospect Avenue, Hudson.
Additionally, if we want to see people with opioid use disorder in Columbia County back in jobs and school, caring for families, contributing to society, we have to make sure that medications for opioid use disorder — such as naltrexone, methadone, and buprenorphine—are readily available.
We need to be a community that respects the courage it takes to live with and overcome opioid use disorder. We need to understand that use of medications for opioid use disorder is not “swapping one drug addiction for another…” it is a way to treat a brain that has been in effect rewired by excessive exposure to opioids. These medications have been scientifically shown to be the most reliable and effective treatment currently available.
The HEALing Communities Study, led by four major university medical centers and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is partnering with communities in four states (KY, MA, NY, OH) to test a set of interventions to combat the opioid crisis. The study aims to reduce opioid overdose deaths by 40 percent over 3 years in participating communities. This goal cannot be reached without increasing the number of people with opioid use disorder who begin medication treatment and stay in medication treatment for six months or more. The longer you stay in treatment, the greater chance of success.
You can learn more about the HEALing Communities Study and find resources for Columbia County at HealTogetherNY.org/Columbia and learn more about the Greener Pathways Mobile Outreach Program of Twin County Recovery Services by visiting http://www.greenerpathways.org
You can learn more about DEA’s National Drug Take Back Day at https://takebackday.dea.gov/.
Carl Quinn is a Certified Recovery Peer Advocate with a Family designation and the Program Director of Greener Pathways, the mobile outreach program of Twin County Recovery Services. Along with Lori Torgersen, he co-chairs the Healing Communities Study Columbia County Communications Workgroup Committee.