An epidemic of their own; relapse and overdose rates surge amidst coronavirus lockdowns

Coronavirus

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – One of the many side effects of the nationwide COVID-19 lockdowns has been the surge of relapse and overdose rates in the recovery community.

According to the American Medical Association, more than 35 states, including Indiana, have reported increases in opioid-related mortality.

In regards to non-fatal overdoses, there’s been a dramatic increase in Fort Wayne from this time last year to this year.

Fort Wayne OD numbers 2016-2020
A chart of the number of overdoses in Fort Wayne from 2016 to 2020. The data was provided by the founder and CEO of Fort Wayne recovery who gets reports from Capt. Kevin Hunter of the Fort Wayne Police Department.

According to data from Capt. Kevin Hunter of the Fort Wayne Police Department, who gets reports from hospitals, between January and June 2019 Fort Wayne reported 348 non-fatal overdoses and between January and June of this year there were 541. The number of overdoses in July 2020 has not been officially counted yet.

“The numbers have increased specifically in the months of April, May and June. The only thing I can relate this to is the COVID quarantine because that’s really the only thing that’s been different.” said Mickey Ashpole, the founder and CEO of Fort Wayne Recovery. “Since this has started, I’ve hired more staff because we’ve had more clients than ever,” Ashpole said.

Ashpole’s statement holds true. The average number of non-fatal overdoses in the month of April from 2016 to 2019 is 70. This year there were 100, which nearly doubles the amount in 2019, as there were only 56.

The data from May and June follow a similar pattern. Most notably, the increase from May 2019 which was 37 non-fatal overdoses to 129 in May of this year.

“One common thing [with relapses] is isolation, said Ashpole. “So you just stay in your room, you drink, you get high, you don’t associate with other people…adding a mandated quarantine on top of that is really depressing.”

He also mentioned the fact that meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous not being able to be held in person during quarantine didn’t help. “These are support systems that you’re using that you couldn’t use anymore,” said Ashpole.

Whitney Straight, the executive director at Avenues Recovery Center, who has worked in the addiction field for 16 years echoed Ashpole’s rationale as to why there’s been this increase.

“Addiction is a disease of isolation and with COVID and quarantine right now people are sitting at home and they’re isolated,” said Straight. “They’re at home so also mental health issues are increasing. Depression, job loss, all of that factors in.”

However, according to the reports, the amount of fatal overdoses has been relatively similar to previous years. So far this year there have been 66 deaths and there are 20 currently pending toxicology. Last year there were 144 deaths.

The data provided may not be entirely comprehensive because it comes from hospital reports. Therefore, if somebody were to overdose but refuse to go to the hospital, there’s no data of them actually overdosing.

Amidst surge, Avenues Recovery Center opens

Amidst these spiking relapse and overdose rates from coronavirus lockdowns, Avenues Recovery Center hosted its grand ribbon cutting ceremony today. The ceremony included tours of the new facility, food trucks and a live painting.

Avenues Recovery Center is a 100-bed detox and residential facility. It officially opens on August 17 and patients can stay for 90 days.

“We decided to open an office here in Fort Wayne because we noticed the under served population,” said Straight. “There’s a lot of facilities popping up for private pay and commercial insurance but that leaves everybody else without anything to go to so we take all insurances.”

In regards to how both facilities mentioned in this article are keeping everyone safe throughout the coronavirus, Avenue Recovery plans to keep patients in the building and follow all CDC guidelines, and Fort Wayne Recovery has transitioned to predominately Telehealth.

For more information or if you or a loved one wishes to seek help recovering visit  www.avenuesrecoveryindiana.com or https://fortwaynerecovery.com/.

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