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Overdoses on the rise

Published: Apr. 27, 2021 at 10:54 AM EDT
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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) -

Medical officials are seeing an increase in illicit drug use since the start of the pandemic. In this week’s Medical Monday, Kathy McCarty explains how isolation and other factors have caused some to use drugs to cope with their suffering.

Last year was one of the worst years for drug overdoses in Maine, with 502 deaths recorded in the state, says Family Nurse Practitioner Samantha Paradis.

“These overdoses are being caused by synthetic opioids, mostly fentanyl. And many of the overdoses are from multiple substances, so whether it be fentanyl with meth or fentanyl with cocaine. And fentanyl is very deadly. It only takes a small amount of the drug to cause an overdose or cause respiratory depression,” says Family Nurse Practitioner Samantha Paradis of Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital.

Those who overdose on fentanyl often need multiple doses of Narcan to survive. She says Narcan is readily available and a useful tool in saving lives.

Paradis says, “Narcan is provided for free at the Roads to Recovery Center in Caribou on Water Street, and through the Micmac Clinic in Presque Isle. It also can be prescribed to you by your primary care provider and you can access it at any pharmacy in Maine.”

Paradis says the overdose crisis has worsened in the pandemic. That’s due to loss of social ties; lack of internet access, transportation, and insurance; and lack of medical care.

“It’s ever more important for us to reach out to our family and friends and make sure that they have that connection and offer any assistance, whether - that we can, whether that be driving people to appointments for making those connections,” says Paradis.

Signs and symptoms include isolation, increased need for money, and unusual behaviors. Medication-assisted treatment has proven safe and effective in treating substance use disorders.

“Roads to Recovery Center in Caribou, and they - they provide an amazing resource to both people who are using drugs and family members who are affected. And so maybe they’re the best place to start if somebody is concerned about a family member’s drug use,” says Paradis.

Paradis says opioid use disorder is a chronic disease, not a moral failing. Kathy McCarty, NewsSource 8

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