Jefferson County Coroner Bill Yates said drug deaths continue to climb yearly despite numerous efforts to curb the opioid crisis.
In 2022, there were 488 drug overdose deaths, most caused by opioids. Only seven months into 2023, there are a suspected 290 drug overdose deaths. If the deaths continue on that path, they will outpace the 2022 number.
"It's very possible that we go through a period the last half of this year where we just aren't having as many, but I doubt that happens," said Yates. "But it does look like we are on track to exceed last year."
Yates said the beginning of the year had such an increase in drug overdose deaths that he thought the numbers would be higher by now. So, based on the first few months of the year, Yates is hopeful. However, many drug overdoses happen at the end of the year, around Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"It's a continued pattern of increase, which is concerning," Yates added. "We jump to this higher level a few years back and we're not even plateauing. So, that's concerning and I know there is a lot of good work done out there."
Yates said fentanyl is still showing up in street drugs, and often the user has no idea they are taking it.
"Nothing has really changed," Yates explained. "Fentanyl is still the biggest player. We are seeing it mixed with other drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine. We are still seeing xylazine, which is a large animal tranquilizer and that is not affected by naloxone, so nothing's changed. It's the same thing that we dealt with last year and unfortunately, we appear to be on track to exceed last year's numbers."
Through local and state partnerships, more awareness and law enforcement training has been offered. There are also resources such as free Narcan and fentanyl test strips available to anyone in the state of Alabama here.
Anyone with a substance abuse question or concern can call Alabama's substance abuse hotline at 1-844-307-1760.
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