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Opioids & the pandemic: A look at the impact of COVID on opioid use

JOPLIN, Mo. – The COVID-19 pandemic has turned many people’s world upside down. While there is some semblance of returning to normal, there’s still other stresses impacting people’s lives. As a result, opioid overdoses are up nationwide. We spoke with the Ozark Center on what’s being seen locally and what options are available for those struggling with addiction.

93,000, that’s the number of overdose deaths nationwide in 2020 according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It’s the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12 month period, a 30% increase from 2019.

Nathan Honeycutt with the Ozark Center’s New Directions facility says they’ve seen an increase in overdoses locally. “Anytime we’re trying to deal with our emotions and dealing with the things that are happening, we’re using substances in order to better address that for a lot of people struggling with addictions.”

Honeycutt says there are several options available to those suffering from addiction to opioids to get treatment. “If they’re a person that likes more of a group type setting, if a person likes more of an individual one-on-one type basis, a detox type program, residential program, all of those services are all provided and we’re able to that here at Ozark Center.”

Another issue that’s hit the Joplin area is fentanyl. Clinical Director Spencer Ellis says other drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines, are being laced with fentanyl, making the situation more dangerous. “And so, because of the uncertainty of what it is that they are going to receive, creates a lot of concern, a lot of fear, the fear of the unknown.”

Ellis says the opioid epidemic is impacting more than just the user, it’s impacting their families. So the Ozark Center provides overdose education on how to use Narcan, but, with the fentanyl addition, there’s a new issue. “Very unfortunately, one of the things that we’ve found recently is that the use of the two-spray Narcan use may not be enough in of itself, to bump the fentanyl out of the opiate receptors, and so a lot of times it takes a double dose.”

Ellis says even with that complication, getting help, sooner rather than later, is your best option.

Extra Help

On Thursday, March 24th, Ozark Center New Directions is hosting a special session for anyone who wants to better understand the struggle of addiction. It will take place from 6:00pm-7:30pm at Ozark Center Hope Spring at 3201 E. 32nd St. in Joplin. For more information you can call (417) 347-7730.

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