LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — New data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that overdose deaths in Kentucky increased by 55%-one of the largest spikes in the nation- between 2019 and 2021.
The new information was part of provisional data released Wednesday that revealed the United States surpassed 100,000 drug overdose deaths in a 12-month period for the first time.
"I'm sure the pandemic exacerbated what was already an escalating problem," said Dana Quesinberry, a UK professor who is the principal investigator for the surveillance within the CDC-funded Kentucky Overdose Data to Action Program at the Kentucky Injury Prevention Center.
Micki Arvin, a community liaison at Addiction Recovery Care, believes the pandemic has been harmful to people in recovery.
"When you isolate a recovering person, it sets them up to get back into old patterns and old ways of thinking," Arvin said.
Arvin, who has been in recovery for more than two years, said she has lost at least six friends due to overdose deaths since the pandemic began.
"No meetings, no church, no community," Arvin said. "And that's dangerous for people that are in recovery."
Quesinberry said many of the overdoses in Kentucky are driven by fentanyl, a powerful opioid.
According to the CDC, deaths due to opioids-including fentanyl-accounted for more than 75% of the deaths over the past year.
"One of the things that we have to do is get a handle on the drug supply changes and the effect it has on mortality because of the more potent substances readily available," she said.
For more information on locations that have Naloxone in Fayette County, click here.
Local non-profit Voices of Hope provides Naloxone at several community events and organizations each week, including their Thanksgiving dinners on November 23rd and 25th. The organization has conducted trainings and distributed free Naloxone at events like the Lexington Farmer's Market, the Crave Food/Music Festival, and other local restaurants.