BUFFALO, N.Y. — According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 100,000 drug overdoses were reported at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. This startling number broke a record for accidental overdoses in a one-year period, and was the result of another pandemic: synthetic and illegal drugs.

What You Need To Know

  • Over 100,000 fatal drug overdoses were reported at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, breaking a record for accidental overdoses in a one-year period

  • According to officials at Horizon Health, many of the overdoses were due to synthetic and illegal drugs like fentanyl

  • They say liquor stores remaining open as essential businesses did not contribute to higher rates of addiction and medical emergencies

  • Lack of support groups and socialization opportunities contributed to many instances of relapse and overdose among those battling substance abuse addictions

“A large portion of those were unintentional overdoses related to fentanyl,” said Brandy Vandermark-Murray, Horizon Health senior vice president of operations. “And so really reducing the amount of fentanyl in our community, with law enforcement, it’s really a collaboration with so many community partners really making sure we improve out comes and increase access to different services.”

While heavy drinking also rose during the pandemic, liquor stores being essential businesses didn’t seem to contribute to exacerbated or newfound addictions.

“We’ve always had access to alcohol and different substances in the community,” Vandermark-Murray said. “I think the change we saw was, people really struggled with using healthy coping skills and they fell backwards to maladaptive coping skills and so with increase in use.”

Anti-anxiety medication prescriptions spiked by 31% during the pandemic, however, many of these were not controlled substances. Overdoses are more closely related to the person than the prescriptions.

“It really depends on the individual,” Vandermark-Murray said. “I think when you’re coming into treatment in particular, it really takes the whole treatment team to work together to see what your risks are. We work with medical providers and counselors and families and different recovery support systems, and we really try to assess, what is the best thing for that patient?”

For more information on mental health and substance abuse treatment, visit Horizon Health's website.