Yearly drug overdose deaths in the U.S. have surpassed 100,000 for the first time ever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of overdose deaths rose 29 percent, from 78,056 from April 2019 to April 2020, to 100,306 in the following 12 months.
In light of these numbers, a local nonprofit is warning of the impact both the pandemic and the holidays are having for those struggling with addiction and sobriety.
Nexus Recovery Center in Dallas has been keeping a close eye on how the recovery community responds to triggers that often present themselves during this time of year. People are attending large parties and others are seeing extended family for the first time in two years.
“They can be especially triggering in early sobriety. There’s people, places and things that you can’t control,” said Heather Ormand, CEO of Nexus Recovery Center. "Being around family that still may be actively using or they only know you as that person, can be really difficult. You can revert back into old patterns. You have to put your sobriety above everything else. That can be really hard and it can seem really selfish to people at times, especially family members that may not understand. But without that, that journey ends there and it has to begin again.”
Ormand devotes herself to running Nexus, a safe haven for women to live and heal while going through rehabilitation. Their children are also able to join the women in the shelter while on their recovery journey.
“We want to let them to know that we love them and will surround them with all the hope that they need,” she said.
Ormand has walked on that same path. She is more than a decade sober.
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“When I got sober, I did that with the hope that maybe one day I could be a mom and have kids,” she said. “Today, I have a five-year-old and a two year old. They are incredible and amazing. Anytime I think about drinking or going down that path, I think about the fact that they’ve never seen me drunk. That means the world to me and if I can help one mom or one woman feel that same way, that’s why I want to be here.”
But sadly, in the last 20 months she said she's watched too many loved ones relapse because of isolation from the pandemic. She worries the holiday season might add to the strain.
“I’ve had so many close friends who had five, ten, 15 years of sobriety that through being in isolation over the last 20 months -- with anxiety, depression and the pressure of being a full-time mommy with your kids at home with no break -- has been really devastating to their sobriety,” she said.
The number of people affected by this in North Texas might surprise you.
According to DFW Hospital Council, opioids are the number one prescribed medication in the region. In the new CDC data, the record breaking number of deaths in the past year have been mostly attributed to opioids, including fentanyl.
“The number of overdose deaths this past year surpassed car crashes and gun violence,” said Ormand. “It’s deadly, it’s happening and we have to face it as a community. One of the drivers of that is the introduction of fentanyl into the next North Texas region. It’s 20 times more potent than heroin. They buy drugs on the street and it’s been cut with that. So these are unintentional, avoidable deaths.”
Before the pandemic, the DFW Hospital Council estimated over 600,000 people sought substance use disorder treatment in North Texas alone.
That's just people who actually got help. There are so many others who don't.
These staggering numbers are why Nexus is opening its doors this holiday season to be a safe space for those in recovery to volunteer, stay away from unhealthy distractions, and stay focused.
“Volunteering is such a great way during the holidays to reinforce the gratitude that you feel for your own recovery and sobriety,” said Ormand. “We want to be that safe community and safe space for anyone that’s looking to volunteer."
Volunteers are welcome to spend time with the clients and kids, put holiday gift packages together, and help set up for children’s parties. For information on how to sign up, click here.
As law enforcement cracks down on drunk drivers for the holidays, Nexus is observing some interesting new data.
Before the pandemic, most of their detox clients were there for opioids. Nearly two years later, half of those clients are now there for alcohol abuse.
“What a lot of people don’t realize or think about is alcohol is really a deadly substance as well,” said Ormand.
If you want to help this holiday season or know someone who needs help, visit www.nexusrecovery.org to find resources.