GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced 2020 saw 93,000 people die from drug overdoses. That is up 29% from 2019.
In West Michigan, overdose numbers were up as well. In Kent County, there were 124 drug overdose deaths in 2020, compared to 109 the previous year.
According to Dr. Stephen Cohle, Kent County Chief Medical Examiner, fentanyl was by far the most commonly used drug.
"It used to be heroin was most popular," said Cohle, "We still get heroin deaths, but that has transitioned into fentanyl. Fentanyl is becoming increasingly common, because it’s readily available, much of it is manufactured in China, and it may be sold as heroin because it looks the same and has as similar effect."
Cohle said 2021 is shaping up to be similar, as he's seeing overdose deaths "several times every week." He expects the numbers for this year to at least equal 2020.
Meanwhile, there are a number of reasons as to why there was an increase in deaths. According to the CDC, lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions isolated those with drug addictions and made treatment harder to get.
Dr. Gilbert Masterson, a psychiatrist at Sanford House in their behavioral health program, said addiction is often tied to mental health.
"These past two years, we’re seen everything go up as far as mental health," said Masterson, "I think the depression, anxiety, isolation, substance use is over the top."
He called the influx "like a tsunami," and overwhelming.
Also, he claimed a connection between mental health and those who had COVID-19.
"It has a direct affect of one in five who had an infection with coronavirus," said Masterson, "will end up having depression or anxiety within the six months following."
If you are facing challenges with addiction related to mental health or other reasons, seek treatment. Sanford House is one of many addiction treatment centers in West Michigan.
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