GLEN DALE, W.Va. (WTRF)
Since the start of the pandemic, West Virginia has seen a 49% increase in drug-related overdose deaths.
Officials say 397 more people in West Virginia died of a drug overdose in 2020 than in 2019.
At WVU Medicine Reynolds Memorial Hospital, an emergency room physician says they are seeing the same thing.
Dr. Neal Aulick says people who are with a friend who is having an overdose often delay in getting them help.
“I think there’s always a concern that maybe they didn’t really take too much and they’re just asleep, or they’re worried about legal implications so they just kind of watch their friend that’s overdosed,” said Dr. Aulick.
He said bad batches of drugs hitting the street mean a rash of overdoses hitting the hospital.
“We had one a few weeks ago where we had four overdoses in just a few hours,” he said.
He said sometimes E squads don’t administer Narcan en route to the hospital.
“The problem with Narcan is that sometimes the patients will become violent,” he noted. “If they do that in the back of an ambulance, that could be very dangerous for the crew. So a lot of times they’ll just support the patient and breathe for the patient until they can get here in the emergency department where it’s a little more controlled environment.”
He says during the pandemic, it was harder to get in to see a psychiatrist or family doctor, and harder to get prescriptions for pain medications renewed..
“Certainly depression, suicidal ideation, things like that, increased greatly during the pandemic,” Dr. Aulick said. “And even now, there’s a huge backlog of trying to get people taken care of. And the isolation has just been terrible for these people.”
They’re also seeing a huge rise in meth overdoses.
Dr. Aulick says his advice to families with a loved one who is drug dependent is to get a Narcan kit (they’ve now available over the counter) and to call 911 immediately in case of a drug overdose.