By Erica Thomas, managing editor
TRUSSVILLE — At least 35 states in the U.S. have reported an increase in drug overdose deaths in 2020. Jefferson County Coroner Bill Yates said there has been an increase locally since the coronavirus pandemic began.
In the Trussville-area zip code, 35173, there were five confirmed overdose deaths from Jan. 1, 2020, to June 30, 2020. Four of those cases were investigated by the Trussville Police Department, meaning they likely happened within city limits. Two of those cases were due to heroin and two were due to fentanyl. That compares to two overdose deaths in the 35173 zip code in the first half of 2019. Yates said there are more deaths that remain under investigation.
The 35126 zip code has not seen an increase and the 35235 zip code has actually seen a decrease, with only one drug overdose death so far in 2020.
The 35215 zip code, which covers parts of Pinson, Clay, Center Point and Chalkville, has seen a drastic increase.
In the first half of 2019, there were three overdose deaths in zip code 35215. Two of those were from opioids and one was from another, unspecified drug. In 2020, there were seven confirmed drug overdose deaths in the 35215 zip code, as of June 30. Six of the 2020 deaths were due to opioids.
The coroner said county-wide, there has been a 25-28% increase in drug overdose deaths so far in 2020. He also said heroin and fentanyl isn’t the only problem. While the majority of deaths are related to opioids, Yates said he is also seeing a mixture of opioids with methamphetamine.
“They also had methamphetamines which is what we see quite often,” Yates said. “We see methamphetamine on board with an opioid, like fentanyl or heroin.”
Nationwide, preliminary federal data shows there was already an increase in stimulant overdoses, such as meth, before the pandemic.
But with added stress due to job loss and social isolation, experts believe the coronavirus is adding fuel to a fire that is already out of control.
Yates said investigators have reported to him that there could be a stronger version of fentanyl being distributed throughout the country.
“I’ve been told by law enforcement that the drug-supplier chain has suffered because of COVID,” Yates explained. “Getting the product to the user has been cumbersome for the drug trade. So, it is believed that there is possibly a more potent fentanyl out there. We don’t know that here, but there are places in other parts of the country that are seeing another form of fentanyl.”
Yates said the use of Narcan, an antidote for opioid overdose, does save lives, but it doesn’t stop the addiction. He said that opioid addiction has impacted people from all walks of life.
“There’s a back story before they were a drug user that a lot of times is out of their hand,” said Yates. “Be it injury on the job or some sort of abuse or trauma that they sustained earlier in life that set them down this road. They make bad choices but I understand why they are making their choices now and it’s horrible.”
If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, contact the Addiction Prevention Coalition online or call (205) 874-8498. You can also use the following links for more information and help.
Recovery Resource Center: (205) 458-3377
SAMHSA Treatment Referral Hotline: 1(800) 662-4357
Recovery Organization of Support Specialists: (205) 848-2112
Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1(800) 273-8255
Other Help Sites:
Drug Recovery Facility Search Tool: https://www.samhsa.gov
In-depth information for those seeking knowledge about specific drugs, help for themselves or a loved one, or information about drug disposal: https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse: https://drugfree.org
Free Rehab Centers in Alabama: https://www.freerehabcenters.org/state/alabama#google_vignette
What is Addiction?: Click to watch Youtube Video
Types of Substance Use Disorders: https://www.addictionpolicy.org/types-of-substance-use-disorder
Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction (NIDA): https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drugs-brain
How Addiction is Becoming a Risk for Seniors: https://www.seniorliving.org/research/substance-abuse-seniors/
Drug Rehab Connections: https://www.drugrehabconnections.com
Shelby County Resources (.pdf)
Central Alabama Resources (.pdf)