EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — America’s drug epidemic is the deadliest it has ever been. El Paso County is also seeing a similar spike in drug overdose deaths this past year.
“This is a dramatically increasing problem over the last two decades,” El Paso County Coroner Doctor Leon Kelly said.
According to new CDC data released on Wednesday, drug overdose deaths in the United States rose to a new record of more than 100,000 from April 2020 to April 2021, a 28.5% jump over the same period the previous year.
The overdose deaths are largely related to opioids and fentanyl.
“By the end of the year, undoubtedly we’ll be over 200 lives lost in this community everything ranging from people who are long time substance abusers who have struggled with this for years all the way to young kids, and adults who are relatively new to abusing substances but when you have fentanyl in your drugs, all it takes is one time,” Dr. Kelly explained.
El Paso County is set to double the number of fentanyl deaths than last year. Dr. Kelly said Narcan and fentanyl test strips aren’t going to solve the problem. He thinks there needs to be more rehab and detox facilities in the county but also giving people other tools to deal with stress, challenges, and mistakes that life throws at people.
“How we prescribe medications, what our relationship is as a community, and a country, and the healthcare system with these drugs and then give them the resources that they need that are intensive, which are difficult, which are expensive, which require families, communities, faith organizations, and non-profits, and everybody to provide that sort of wrap-around support to these people that are struggling,” Dr. Kelly said.
For those battling opioid addiction, you don’t have to do it alone.
“Everyone of us knows someone that we’ve cared about or care about who’s struggled with these issues, and we need to tackle it that way,” Dr. Kelly said. “It’s a community-wide, cross-cultural, cross-agency collaborative commitment to deal with this issue, it grows worse by the day.”
“Seek treatment. Help is available, and it works. Yes, it’s a chronic disease, and it can be fatal, but it definitely can be preventable and treatable,” National Director Comprehensive Opioid Response Ahmed Eid said.
This year, the DEA has seized 12,000 pounds of fentanyl–a record amount. Drug overdoses now surpass deaths from car crashes, guns, and even flue and pneumonia.