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Increase in overdoses blamed on COVID-19 pandemic, also negatively affects those seeking addiction treatment

Pennsylvania woman gave heroin to her addicted 16-year-old daughter, police say
Posted at 10:15 PM, Oct 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-07 00:14:34-04

NEWTOWN, Ohio — COVID-19 has affected nearly everything in the world – including how people access social services like addiction treatment. Statistics suggest the global pandemic is making a big impact on the number of overdoses.

The Hamilton County Coroner said in May 2020, 42 people overdosed. From April 20-24, 13 people died of an overdose. Another 25 people died from overdosing from June 1-11.

“We predicted and we planned for it, but it’s one of those things that’s extremely difficult to stop,” said Newtown Police Chief Tom Synan.

He said with the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 on the horizon, there’s a big fight ahead to save lives. Synan is on the steering committee for the Hamilton County Addiction Response Coalition – a group that tackles the opioid crisis from every angle – he said there was no amount of work that could fully prep them for a the pandemic.

“COVID kind of kicked you in the gut and brought those numbers back up,” Synan said.

He said the supply chain for illegal drugs was disrupted by the onset of COVID-19.

“If you’re addicted and your substance goes away it doesn’t mean that you stop,” Synan said. “You’re still struggling with that addiction. So, you saw people transition to the other drugs.”

According to Synan, when the country reopened, so did the floodgates of a stronger drug supply that killed many of its consumers.

“It’s one of those things that when that fentanyl supply opened up, when COVID restrictions opened up, you saw it all hitting and it was very hard to stop,” he said.

After more than 40 overdoses locally in May – Synan believes the Greater Cincinnati area could see close to 400 by the end of 2020. He said reaching those seeking help for addiction is now harder, too.

“Okay, we can’t go out and do outreach now,” he said. “We know that treatment can’t get everybody in at the moment. Is there something we can do to try and help some people out?”

The local battle against addiction has turned to virtual meetings, telehealth and ensuring that NARCAN is always available.

Synan said he knows it’s no replacement for in-person contact and worries that a second wave of the virus may make the fight harder.

“If you think you can make a difference, you keep trying,” he said.

Synan said those seeking treatment for themselves or a loved one in rehab are being met with limited capacity so they’ll need to be persistent.

If you or someone you know needs treatment, call the Center for Addiction Treatment at 513-381-6672.

Here are more virtual services for people in recovery:

Numbers you can call for support:

  • Greater Cincinnati Area Hope Line: 513-820-2947
  • Northern Kentucky Hope Line: 859-429-1783
  • Indiana Addiction Hotline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)