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Delaware's overdose rate has remained high through the pandemic, comparable to recent years

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Delaware Public Media
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Delaware’s overdose death rate remains consistently high during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In May the state recorded the most suspected drug overdose deaths it has ever seen in a single month with 39, according to the state Division of Forensic Science. And the rate of about one overdose death per day continues—with 31 in June and 34 in July. 

While several local health officials have noted an uptick in alcohol and drug use during the pandemic, the overdose death rate numbers during the pandemic are comparable to recent years. 

Prof. Tammy Anderson is Associate Director at the Center for Drug and Health Studies at the University of Delaware. Her team is studying seasonal variations in overdoses statewide. She says it’s still too early to tell if the COVID pandemic is fueling the high overdose rate, but there is reason to speculate. 

“It is true that if we’re socially isolating and we’re staying at home, it may be that there are fewer people to revive those that overdose and there might be lesser access to naloxone than there was previously, before COVID,” said Anderson.

Anderson adds if the pandemic is adding to drug-related deaths Delaware, it may be the case that the pandemic is shining a light how the social determinants of health can lead to drug use.

“And I would guess that the impetus for COVID having that impact is because people are now unemployed, they’re losing hope, they have dysfunctional family dynamics and their community supports are withering away,” she said.       

Delaware’s overdose death rate has gone up every year since 2013 with a record 431 last year. 

This has prompted a multi-million-dollar effort from the state in recent years to reduce the rate—with much of the funding coming from federal grants.

As of Aug. 9 the state is reporting 236 overdose deaths so far this year.

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