GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — It’s been called an epidemic within the pandemic.
There were more than 1,300 drug overdoses in Guilford County in 2021, according to new data from Guilford County Emergency Services.
A record 160 people died of a suspected drug overdose in the county last year, an 841% increase since 2013. First responders administered the rapid opioid reversal drug, Naloxone, 1,888 times.
Recovery advocates told FOX8 recent challenges include the stress of the pandemic, a contaminated drug supply on the streets and a lack of services for people who want to stop.
It’s a situation Caroline Drake knows too well. Her 24-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn, was admitted to a treatment facility to start her journey of recovery in 2019.
“We were very surprised and shocked and obviously wanted what we can do to help,” she said. “Typically, what gets them started is a band-aid to fix a problem they have, not found a solution.”
She was in recovery classes but when the pandemic hit her world turned upside down.
A drug overdose put Kaitlyn in critical care at a Triad hospital in July 2020. “The last time we saw her was the day we took her off life support,” Drake said.
Over the past five years, the Triad’s largest cities have reported an increase in drug overdoses.
In 2021, there were 844 overdoses in Greensboro, according to Greensboro Police. That’s compared to 677 overdoses in 2020 and 526 overdoses in the year before the pandemic started.
The number of people who died of a drug overdose increased last year too. There were 113 people who died in Greensboro, 62 people in Winston-Salem and 21 people in High Point.
“We are worse than we’ve ever been,” said Dr. Melissa Floyd-Pickard, the executive director of Guilford County Solution to the Opioid Problem or GCSTOP. “Whenever people are feeling disconnected and depressed and all of those things, that makes drug use worse.”
GCSTOP is an organization founded in 2018 and dedicated to helping reduce drug use and help people in recovery.
Floyd-Pickard told FOX8 deadly amounts of fentanyl have become more common on the streets.
“People are dealing with where they think they’re getting one thing and they’re getting something else,” she said.
She said drug users who want to stop face challenges including no insurance or not being able to receive medically assisted treatment.
“We need to be more welcoming for people to help them stay alive long enough and that’s what harm reduction is,” Floyd-Pickard said.
That’s why GCSTOP provides clean supplies to users including Naloxone and clean syringes. A team is dedicated to helping people who have recently overdosed all in hopes to get them on a path to recovery.
“I always say we hold people’s hope for them because a lot of our participants don’t have a lot of hope they’re going to be able to get free of it,” she said.
Over the past six-month GCSTOP has reported 431 opioid reversals, essentially the number of lives saved. Nearly 800 people were helped.
“Their lives are worth just as much as anybody else’s. A disease they have doesn’t make them any less,” Drake said.