CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — As the world begins to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re learning more about the collateral damage.
This week, NCDHHS leaders announced 2020 saw a rapid increase, 40%, of drug overdose deaths in North Carolina.
According to the NCDHHS, nine North Carolinians died every day in 2020 from a drug overdose.
“A single life lost to an overdose is a life we should have saved. Stress, loss of housing, and loss of employment for those in recovery caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a backslide in our fight against substance use disorders,” said NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “Improving behavioral health and resilience is a top priority for NCDHHS, and we will rally our community partners and our team to meet these new challenges as we focus on saving lives, prevention, and the lasting supports needed for long-term recovery, including increasing the number of people with health insurance.”
In 2020 there were nearly 1,000 more deaths from overdoses than in 2019.
This stark increase came after 2018 saw the number of deaths from overdoses drop and then plateau in 2019.
But the loneliness and depression often associated with the early lockdown stages of the pandemic likely led to the huge increase in overdose deaths.
“It’s easy to cope with a substance. Because they make us feel better,” said Elizabeth Brewington with the NC Council of Churches, a faith-based organization that guides faith leaders on how to combat the opioid epidemic.