Area doctors speak out about overdose rate skyrocketing during the pandemic

Ohio County

WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF)

The U.S. drug overdose death rate climbed to new heights during the first year of the pandemic.

The CDC says 87,000 Americans died of overdoses in the 12-month period that ended in September 2020.

A physician and a clinical psychologist from WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital talked about what prompted these numbers and what happens now.

“While COVID has been in the headlines, it has inflamed another public health crisis—drug addiction and drug overdose deaths,” said Dr. Clark Milton, corporate health medical director at WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital.

People fighting addiction suddenly had the added burden of isolation and loss of connections.

“That creates feelings of loneliness and despair,” said Dr. John McFadden, clinical psychologist at WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital. “People lost jobs and that created financial stress.”

People sought out stronger drugs..

“The use of high potency opiates such as fentanyl being used for the profits of the drug dealers has had this influence because of its power on each individual human,” said Dr. Milton. 

They suggest staying connected with friends and loved ones.

“Maybe you want to check on your neighbor,” said Dr. McFadden. “Stay in contact. And then certainly if depression increases, probably the first gatekeeper to confer with would be your family physician,” advised Dr. McFadden.

Anxiety about the future is real, and seems to particularly affect younger people.

“It’s a bad situation from the point of view of mental health,” he added.

“Well, hopefully as we remove ourselves from this pandemic and become more open and people have the opportunity for treatment, these death numbers can decrease,” Dr. Milton concluded. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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