NEW ORLEANS — We are getting a chance to see numbers from the CDC show a dramatic increase in the amount of drug overdose deaths and it is a new high for this country.
More than 96,000 people died in the U.S. during a 12-month period ending in March 2021. That’s an increase of nearly 30% from March 2020.
These deaths were happening during a time when covid-19 forced serious changes in our lives.
Former St. Bernard Pharmacist Dan Schneider was made famous from the Netflix documentary " The Pharmacist". He is also the founder of The Tunnel of Hope, a non-profit working to end the opioid epidemic.
He explained why the pandemic and isolation drove these numbers but also talked about another reason for the spike.
"When you had total isolation, a lot of people couldn’t get in-person connections. They couldn’t go to AA meetings. They couldn’t go to Narcotics Anonymous. Some of the treatment centers were limiting what they were able to do. Part of drug abuse is loneliness and feeling alone. And so the people who are in recovery usually band together pretty much and they kind of help each other. And success rates aren’t good, but they are decent, but during COVID with all of the isolation got a lot worse. And also remember the stress and anxiety of this thing.. And in some cases unemployment, people experimented with drugs that never took them before so there was a myriad of things that led to this being such a big problem, along with the blossoming of fentanyl," said Dan Schneider.
WWLTV Paul Dudley asked him "what do you think people should do, going forward? Even if you don’t know someone who is directly impacted by drug overdose, seeing these numbers is really alarming and people do want to help? What can people do?"
"Well, let me just tell you last year the number was 93,000 (deaths)..if you think about LSU stadium, that’s about how many people fit in LSU stadium..and you know how they call that Death Valley..think of it full of the people that died of an overdose. And remember some of those are youthful kids that didn’t have substance abuse disorders that took a pill..and so they are in the stands also, alright? And my biggest message right now is parents and teachers and anybody really.. Talk to these kids warn them ok..it used to be ..lots of times we exaggerated and say it like Russian Roulette trying drugs and it was a little bit of an exaggeration ok..but nowadays..actually this fentanyl can be in anything..they put it in marijuana..they put it in methenamine and Ecstasy, Percocet, Xanax and so now it’s truly Russian Roulette," said Dan Schneider.
According to the CDC, nearly 841,000 people have died since 1999 from a drug overdose.