Overdoses up nationally, locally during 2020

Posted at 11:56 AM, Jan 08, 2021

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Overdose deaths in Kent County are on track to be on par or potentially outpace the numbers of 2019 and 2018.

Medical professionals say the pandemic has prompted some to turn to drugs and alcohol, with isolation proving to be a main factor in substance use disorders over the past year.

"Right now in our community we are seeing an increase in substance use disorders. We're seeing an increase in rates of substance use of both in opioids and alcohol we can point to that more easily," said Dr. Cara Poland, Medical Director of Addiction Medicine at Spectrum Health and Assistant Professor at Michigan State University.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released data on overdose deaths through May of 2020, revealing more than 81,000 deaths across the United States. The number is the highest in a 12-month period to date.

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To break it down further, Kent County is on track to encounter a similar death rate from overdoses from 2019 and 2018. According the Kent County Health Department, there have been 78 deaths through October of 2020. The current numbers are preliminary.

Considering the numbers, Dr. Poland says it makes helping patients even more rewarding.

"When I see people being successful today, it almost has an extra piece of joy to it because I know that we don't have the in-person connections that we once did," said Dr. Poland.

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