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I-TEAM: Opioid overdoses on the rise in 2-state region

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 7:14 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Drug overdose deaths skyrocketed nationwide during the pandemic. The I-Team analyzed deaths in Georgia and South Carolina and found the story is even worse.

Behind each death by a drug overdose is a family left in pain knowing this was preventable. The I-Team told you at the start of the pandemic deaths by suicide and drug overdose were expected to rise to levels from the great depression and new data shows they have.

The CDC just published their new national findings on drug overdose deaths. Across the country deaths due to heroin, meth, cocaine, opioids, and others rose by about 30 percent from 2019 to 2020. In Georgia, the increase was higher at a 34 percent increase. In South Carolina far greater, a staggering 53 percent increase statewide.

We wanted to give you a closer look at what’s happening here at home so we contacted our local coroners.

In Augusta coroner Mark Bowen’s records show we are right on track with the state, Richmond County recorded a 33 percent increase in drug overdose deaths year to year in the pandemic. The picture was a bit less drastic in Aiken County compared to the state, coroner Darryl Ables reports a 14 percent increase in overdose death from 2020 compared to 2019. We’re still waiting on Columbia County’s numbers.

What caught our attention the most, fentanyl is by far the deadly drug of choice in our area. The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines fentanyl as “A powerful synthetic opioid… that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.”

80 percent of all drug overdoses in Aiken County alone involved fentanyl in 2020. It wasn’t that high in Augusta over the last two years but already in 2021 fentanyl accounts for 70 percent of deadly drug overdoses in Richmond County right now.

Just truly a staggering increase overall and sadly, drug overdoses look to still be on the rise locally halfway into 2021.

2019 Richmond County accidental overdose chart:

2019 Richmond County accidental overdose chart
2019 Richmond County accidental overdose chart(WRDW)

2020 Richmond County accidental overdose chart:

2020 Richmond County accidental overdose chart
2020 Richmond County accidental overdose chart(WRDW)

2021 Richmond County accidental overdose chart:

2021 Richmond County accidental overdose chart
2021 Richmond County accidental overdose chart(WRDW)

2019 Aiken County accidental overdose chart:

2020 Aiken County accidental overdose chart:

2021 Aiken County accidental overdose chart:

There are resources available. The number for help with substance abuse and mental health services is 1-800-662-4357.

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