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Alarming spike in drug overdoses may be linked to COVID-19, officials say

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Alarming spike in drug overdoses may be linked to COVID-19 (WPEC)

STUART, Fla. (WPEC) — Drug overdose cases and deaths are on the rise in dozens of states, and authorities in one Florida county say they believe the coronavirus pandemic is a contributing factor to the sudden increase.

“We know we’re in the middle of a pandemic. People are depressed, people are probably turning to drug and alcohol abuse and use more than they would before," said Maj. John Budensiek of the Martin County Sheriff's Office.

At this time last year in 2019, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office says there were 90 drug overdoses and 14 drug overdose deaths.

Now in 2020, they’ve seen 138 overdoses and 28 drug overdose deaths so far.

“Anytime you have a spike like that it is alarming," Budensiek said.

They’ve taken three alleged drug dealers off the street in the past few days. Each of them is charged with sale of fentanyl, a very dangerous drug that can be lethal.

Detectives say in order to boost their profits and rake in more money, drug sellers sometimes add fentanyl—which costs a lot less—to heroin and cocaine to increase the number of doses they have to sell.

Some feel the spike in drug overdoses is being fueled by the coronavirus pandemic.

"I think a lot of this especially right now we are seeing is coming from COVID-19," said Caroline Franklin, a clinical therapist at Retreat Behavioral Health, a drug abuse treatment facility in Lake Worth Beach.

Franklin says the coronavirus pandemic has caused more anxiety.

“I think the anxiety is increasing which then sometimes turns people towards drugs," she said.

With many people out of work due to COVID-19, she says they have more time on their hands.

"A huge portion of people are socially isolated. Whether they were working before or not, an increased amount of depression and anxiety is being seen right now," Franklin said. "Everyone being home and not having as much interaction with people that they consider their support people, people they care about, can be really detrimental."

One sheriff’s office official says to try to reduce the number of drug overdoses and deaths, they have detectives going out to interview people who’ve overdosed and survived, telling them they got some bad dope laced with fentanyl. They hope the user will give up the name of their dealer or seller when they realize the deadly consequences of these street drugs.