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Opioid overdoses up during COVID-19 pandemic

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun at a news conference with Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

More people are overdosing on opioids since the beginning of the pandemic. Dr. Joneigh Khaldun is the Chief Medical Executive for the State of Michigan. She says the number of Emergency Medical Services responses to opioid overdoses has jumped since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“Between April to June, there was a 26 percent increase in E.M.S. responses for opioid overdoses compared to the same period of time in 2019," Khaldun explained.

It’s not clear what the connection is between the pandemic and the increase in opioid overdoses.

“It may mean that because of the COVID pandemic, we're seeing more people who are suffering from opioid use disorder and overdosing,” Khaldun suggested.

The increase occurred in all regions of the state and nearly all demographic groups with the exception of those 65 and older.

The state urges anyone who’s abusing opioids to carry the treatment Naloxone which can reverse an opioid overdose. It’s too early to tell if the pandemic is also leading to more overdose deaths because of a lag in reporting deaths.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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