Following Record Overdoses, Health Officials Focus on Treatment Resources | Fairfax County


Dcarpet overdose deaths topped 100,000 in a year for the first time, according to a recent CDC report, leading health officials to stress the importance of access to treatment for drug and substance abuse and to warn against increasing fentanyl, a major determinant of overdose deaths.

This figure represents an alarming increase in the number of overdoses and marks a setback in the fight against the opioid epidemic. Overdose deaths increased nearly 29 percent nationally between April 2019 and around the same time in 2020, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics report. Overdose deaths in Virginia in the same period rose slightly above average by about 36 percent.

Synthetic opioids now account for the vast majority of overdose deaths – nearly 73%, according to the CDC. Of opioid overdoses, 59% involved fentanyl in 2017. Data from the Fairfax County Department of Health indicates that opioids are the leading cause of unnatural deaths. Fentanyl consumption is also associated with most opioid overdose cases: of 94 opioid overdose deaths in 2020, 87 were fentanyl.

The proportion of overdose deaths involving opioids has increased slightly in Fairfax County, and non-fatal opioid overdoses have also increased. There were 163 non-fatal opioid overdoses in Fairfax in the first two quarters of this year, up from 123 in the same period last year, in part due to increased fentanyl use.

A potent pain reliever similar to morphine, although 50 to 100 times more potent, fentanyl has recently proliferated in the illicit drug trade. Due to its potency, it can be mixed with other drugs and is often a cheaper and easier to obtain alternative. More than half of overdose deaths nationwide now involve fentanyl used in combination with another drug, underscoring the dangers created by the increasingly widespread use of fentanyl.

Health officials point out that several factors are contributing to the population increase in overdose deaths. Department of Health spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell wrote in an email that the increase in opioid overdoses “can be attributed to individual, political and environmental causes, all exacerbated by the increased availability of fentanyl and its analogues “.

Many street drugs become contaminated with stronger opioids like fentanyl, Caldwell wrote, and users of other opioids eventually develop tolerance, leading them to seek out more robust alternatives. In addition, the pandemic has created new pressures or intensified existing ones, prompting some people to start self-medication.

Health officials stress that the proper treatment of conditions such as drug addiction that contribute to overdose deaths requires a far-reaching response. “Vulnerability to substance abuse includes several factors such as genetics, environment, and repeated exposure,” Caldwell wrote. “Drug addiction is rarely attributed to a single factor. It is important to consider that various factors can contribute to addiction, including isolation, mental health, lack of support system or treatment for addiction.

In Fairfax County, the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board offers a range of programs that tackle the underlying causes of addiction, such as outpatient care, peer support, residential drug treatment and drug addiction. ‘other programs. The CSB also coordinates with the Fairfax County Police Department to refer people to drug addiction or treatment programs instead of arrest. FCPD agents and first responders also carry naloxone, a potent drug that can treat overdoses by neutralizing opioids currently in a person’s system.

The CSB now offers training on how to respond to overdoses, for example by administering naloxone. Due to the increasing number of overdose deaths associated with fentanyl, CSB also provides fentanyl test strips, which can determine if a drug is cut with fentanyl.

Local nonprofits such as the Chris Atwood Foundation partner with organizations such as the Department of Health to provide community services to address substance use issues. Ginny Atwood Lovitt, executive director of the foundation, wrote in an email that addiction being a “death sentence” is a common misconception. recovery. “She noted that stigma often gets in the way of seeking treatment.” This disease is treated differently from other diseases. Science doesn’t support that.

She added that it is crucial that people at risk of overdose are included in long-term care. “The emergency services regularly refer people after an overdose or other medical emergency that is clearly the result of their substance abuse disorder and do not provide them with any resources, follow-up, [or] link to care, ”she wrote. “We have to stop failing people at these most basic and critical intersections because for some people that is fortunate that we will get to help them before it’s too late.” ”

With the holiday season underway, what is often seen as a time for close friends and family to get together can also increase social isolation from others. If you or someone you know suffers from addiction, you can contact the CSB or the Peer Intervention Team for help. The Heads Up and Talk it Out program and Virtual Parent Support Group hosted by the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court also provide support for teens struggling with substance abuse and other issues. In case of an emergency overdose, call 911.


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