(The Center Square) – Alabama saw a significant increase in overdose deaths in 2021, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC reports a total of 1,076 drug overdose deaths were reported between April 2020 and April 2021, compared to just 826 overdose deaths reported the previous year. Alabama saw an increase of 30.3% of drug overdoses, surpassing the national average of 27.7%.
Alabama’s Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council, according to a news release, is working to raise awareness of overdose deaths in the state.
The organization is working with the Department of Public Health to combat, and reverse, the epidemic.
“The crisis of opioid use and addiction reaches all strata of society in significant ways, and the COVID-19 pandemic has created additional challenges,” said Dr. Scott Harris, who serves as state health officer, in the release. “We encourage the friends and families of people with substance abuse disorders to educate themselves about the lifesaving use of naloxone and to support their loved ones in seeking and receiving care without judgment or blame.”
The state has developed the “Stop Judging, Start Healing” campaign to educate not just the public but health care professionals, as well, according to the release. The state’s Pharmacy Division conducts the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, compiling a database of dispensed schedule II through schedule V drugs in the state.
The goal of the program, according to the release, is to see who is dispensing and receiving the prescription drugs and also keeping a count of inventoried drugs to allow for the ease of identifying missing quantities.
According to the release, the state also provides naloxone to those who need it.
“The Alabama Department of Mental Health fully encourages the training and use of Naloxone to decrease overdose deaths of our loved ones,” said Kim Boswell, who serves as commissioner of the Alabama Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council. “Too many friends and family members are lost to opioid use disorder. We can help them begin the journey of recovery by educating ourselves about Naloxone.”
Attorney General Steve Marshall said the “crisis has caused tremendous suffering” in the state.
“More than even, it is important that we face this problem effectively, focusing not on shame and stigma, but on prevention, treatment and healing,” Marshall said.
The Department of Mental Health has a free 24/7 substance abuse help line at 1-844-307-1760.