WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The Wilmington Police Department and Coastal Horizons Center are warning of a spike in heroin overdoses in the Wilmington area within the past several days.
According to a press release sent out late Thursday afternoon, police have responded to seven heroin overdoses since October 1. Two of those overdoses were fatal.
[If you are a loved one are in crisis, there are resources at the bottom of this story]
And it isn’t just the last few weeks that have seen more overdoses — Wilmington has seen 254 overdoses so far this year, where 2019 saw just 209 total, according to WPD.
Kenny House, Vice President of Clinical Services at Coastal Horizons, says there are a number of factors, but the continuing coronavirus pandemic and the decreasing supply of heroin are near the top.
“It is a reflection of the newer COVID-19 related trend of increases in depression and anxiety, coupled with the cheaper but more dangerous additives like fentanyl to the supply of heroin," House said. "Even though help is available on a daily basis, many simply don’t know the resources for treatment that are relatively easy to access.”
For many, House said, the increased anxiety and depression are a result of the isolation from the social distancing needed to fight the pandemic, along with the significant number of layoffs and furloughs caused by pandemic restrictions.
“Those things were already here, what the pandemic has done, and the limits in human, kind of, relationship and connection has made people feel just more disconnected, to where those things that were already going on are now kind of increased and intensified," House said.
While things had been improving prior to the onset of the pandemic, Southeastern North Carolina had not entirely emerged from the opioid crisis, despite the issue falling out of headlines.
House said compared to the early days of stay-at-home orders and concern over the coronavirus, the treatment system network for those facing addiction has been able to adapt and increase opportunities for care, whether that be through telehealth or other means.
“I think that what might have been initially a concern, like ‘How will people get help?’ We’ve made it so that help is accessible, so that people don’t have to say, ‘Well help’s not available because of the pandemic,’” he said. “No, we’re we’re fully functional. Our first response systems, our treatment systems are fully operational.”
The Wilmington Police Department has partnered with Coastal Horizons hoping to encourage anyone struggling with addiction to seek help.
For those facing an immediate crisis, the 24/7 Mobile Crisis teams at Coastal Horizons are available at (866) 437-1821 or (855) 345-1200. Counselors with the Quick Response Team are also available at (910) 833-2052 for anyone who has survived an overdose and is hoping to get help. Counselors at the Outpatient Treatment Services can be reached at (910) 343-0145.