Drug overdoses, alcohol abuse on the rise in SWFL

Reporter: Michael Hudak Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:
An overdose victim being taken to an emergency room. Credit: WINK News

There have been a record number of drug overdoses and a spike in alcohol abuse in Southwest Florida in 2021, and the holiday season hasn’t helped, but there are solutions.

At this time of year, our outlooks transition from alcohol being something socially accepted to something socially expected. According to a new study, around one in five adults has essentially been binge drinking in the last 30 days, and experts say that the social isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has led people to drink much more than they normally would when they do go out.

In addition, deaths from drug overdoses between April 2020 and April 2021 exceeded 100,000 in the U.S. for the first time ever in a 12-month span. That’s why entities like the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation for drug and alcohol addiction in Naples are here to help

“Most of the overdose deaths really result from opioid use and the presence of fentanyl,” said Terry Gerlach, an addiction counselor with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. “With respect to opioid use, it really is a lack of education.”-

Experts say the key to avoiding binge drinking is practicing moderation, but there are medical treatments for those in the grip of serious addictions.

“The good news, though, is that there are solutions for it,” Gerlach said. “A couple of the solutions, first and foremost, is seeking treatment for opioid use disorders. So we use evidence-based practices to give them coping skills. There also is a strong recommendation to engage in medication, medication-assisted treatment, typically in the form of a drug called suboxone, which is an opioid receptor, which can help somebody to… reduce cravings.”

If you are struggling with addiction,  the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s phone number is 1-855-972-5192.

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