CORAL SPRINGS, FL – More people in Coral Springs and Parkland died of drug overdoses in 2020 than in the previous two years, an indication that residents have struggled with social isolation during the pandemic and turned to substances, according to data and experts.

Data from Coral Springs-Parkland Fire Department released Monday shows that 43 people died of drug overdoses in 2020 -- up from 26 in 2019 and 20 in 2018.

In 2021, from January to April, eight people have died of drug overdoses, based on the data.

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Overdose deaths have spiked across the nation during Covid-19 crisis, federal data shows. It happened as less attention and fewer resources have been drawn to the problem while the country has battled the coronavirus.

More than 87,000 Americans died of drug overdoses over the 12-month period that ended in September -- the highest toll from any year since the opioid epidemic began in the 1990s, according to The New York Times.

In Coral Springs and Parkland, what type of drugs – heroin, fentanyl, prescription painkillers, or other similar substances – likely caused the deaths wasn’t included in the data.

Juan Cardona, a division chief in the fire department, said he wasn’t surprised by the spike in overdose deaths last year.

“Mental health took a huge dive because of Covid,” he said.

Cardona and other experts said people are turning to drugs and alcohol to deal with the stress of divorce, bankruptcy, loss of employment, and other challenges related to the coronavirus.

In addition, because of social distancing measures in the past year, many drug users were likely alone when they took drugs with no one there to care for them, get them to a hospital or provide them with naloxone, which can halt the effects of an opioid overdose, experts said.

The pandemic also delayed, Cardona said, a new Coral Springs program that would ween people addicted to opioids like heroin or painkillers with a combination of medicine, treatment, and compassion.

It would be a unique cooperation between public agencies, private sector, and those recovering from addiction and involve the administration of Suboxone, a form of the withdrawal-reversal drug buprenorphine, for people recovering from an overdose.

“I’m hoping it would start when things better,” he said.


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