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East Texas overdose deaths fluctuate as US overdose deaths hit record

The provisional 2021 total translates to roughly one U.S. overdose death every 5 minutes
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Published: May. 12, 2022 at 9:01 PM CDT|Updated: May. 12, 2022 at 11:01 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - More than 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year, setting another tragic record in the nation’s escalating overdose epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated Wednesday.

The provisional 2021 total translates to roughly one U.S. overdose death every five minutes. It marked a 15% increase from the previous record, set the year before. The CDC reviews death certificates and then makes an estimate to account for delayed and incomplete reporting.

“I’m not surprised,” Kim Bartel, data coordinator with Alcohol & Drug Abuse Council in Deep East Texas said. We are seeing even in small communities that may not normally have maybe one overdose a year, some of those communities have now had as many as five or six a month. And it’s not steady, it may come through periods of rise and fall.”

According to the CDC, about 2/3 of last year’s overdose deaths involved fentanyl or other opioids. “We are seeing that increase in fentanyl which is being laced on a lot of opioid pills and so those that are taking it can become, or they’re unaware that it’s there and where seeing a lot of overdoses through this fentanyl,” Bartel said.

The Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse said drug overdose rates have been steadily increasing for decades. The pandemic expedited those rates.

“The lockdowns, the isolations was especially difficult for youth teenagers to experience. That isolation, social distancing cost a lot of emotional stress,” Bartel said.

Tyler Police Department public information officer Andy Erbaugh said that the rise in rates is not the case in Tyler. In 2019, Tyler saw four confirmed overdose deaths. In 2020, zero. In 2021, four and in 2022, three.

Erbaugh said one common factor that can lead to an overdose is not knowing what is in a drug.

“Somebody who you know may not be even that far down in to drugs, can harm themselves or hurt themselves very quickly,” Erbaugh said. “It’s been a mantra for as long as I’ve been in school is just to stay away from drugs and don’t do drugs.”

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