Dying to be free – 

Nov. 18, 2020 – “I do think it’s a combination of those things,” said Dr. Taylor Ochalek, a research scientist at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine.

“Social isolation can obviously increase feelings of depression and other mental health symptoms. So people are feeling really alone during this time. That might put them at a higher risk of relapsing. They don’t have their normal social support.” Drug fatalities have been rising steadily for the past decade in Virginia. In 2013, they surpassed guns and motor vehicles as the leading cause of unnatural death in the state and climbed to 1,626 in 2019. The medical examiner’s report projects that for 2020, fatal overdoses will hit 2,053 — an increase of 26 percent from the previous year.

“I’m fearful that 2,050 is going to be a conservative estimate,” Hobron said in an interview. She said the number of deaths could reach 2,200.

Of Virginia’s 133 cities and counties, 77 registered more fatal overdosesduring the first half of 2020 than during the corresponding period of 2019. 

Drug deaths more than doubled in the cities of Richmond and Roanoke and rose 50 percent or more in Newport News, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Loudoun and Arlington counties.

Many smaller communities and rural counties have been hit hard, too. For instance, in Salem, fatal overdoses jumped from three during the first half of 2019 to 11 during the first half of this year. In Bedford County, they went from three to 10; in Henry County, from seven to 19; and in Warren County, from six to 16.



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