Drug overdose deaths on the rise during pandemic, local non-profit offers resources

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – August 31 was International Overdose Awareness Day and this year, with the added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, drug overdose deaths are on the rise.

“My sister was a wonderful person. She had a masters degree. She loved animals, she loved her nieces and nephews. She just fought a battle she couldn’t win,” says Marcie Lewis.

Marcie Lewis lost her sister Samantha to a drug overdose in June of 2019. For her, International Overdose Awareness Day is a time to remember her loved one, but also to speak up for those still fighting the battle of addiction.

“It’s a day to remember my sister who I lost as well as work to erase the stigma of substance abuse disorder. You know people are so quick to judge someone who has a use disorder and not realizing that it affects everyone in all walks of life,” says Lewis.

Studies show that overdose deaths are trending upwards nationwide in 2020. Lewis says she has seen that first hand with friends and through working with Not One More Alabama.

“I have several friends who have lost loved ones during this time. Many of them were in recovery, so I think it’s really important to understand what the lack of communication and feeling cut off from the world is doing to people already struggling,” says Lewis.

Blake Cruttenden works at a treatment facility and with Not One More Alabama. He says the pandemic has been hard on nearly everyone, but the toll can be different for those battling addiction.

“Anxiety, grief with peoples jobs the isolation of them being at home. There’s a number of issues that can lead to a trigger,” sayd Cruttenden.

The lack of communication and socialization during the pandemic can be a barrier for getting help.

“Most people with addiction struggle with mental illness as well. Not being able to access resources. Having to do therapy via phone or zoom not being able to have that in person one on one time,” says Lewis.

Lewis says unfortunately, she expected to see a spike in addiction and overdoses with the pandemic.

“It was one of my first thoughts when everything shut down was what are those that are already struggling going to do when they’re isolated?” says Lewis.

And thats why she says it’s important to be educated on how to help loved ones battling addiction to try to prevent an overdose.

Resources can be found on their website here:

Not One More Alabama will be hosting a Virtual Grief Workshop on October 10th to look at loss related to addiction including the death of a loved one, along with other losses such as loss of relationships, careers, goals, and hope.

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