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City Urges Drug Treatment Over Punishment as Opioid Overdoses Rise

The City of Alexandria is urging locals to become acquainted with overdose treatment as cases rise both statewide and locally.

“The Virginia Department of Health’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner reports that 2020 may be the worst year on record for fatal overdoses in Virginia,” the city said in a press release. “Preliminary figures from the second quarter of 2020 indicate a 66.8% increase in fatal drug overdoses in Virginia from the same period in 2019, suggesting a possible correlation with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The city release liked the increase to collective stress from the COVID-19 pandemic. The city urged residents engaging in substance abuse to seek treatment and recovery programs offered by the city.

“The City and the Alexandria Community Services Board offer an opioid treatment program, the Alexandria Residential Treatment Center, mental health and substance abuse residential services, outpatient treatment for substance use disorders and a Narcan-by-mail delivery program,” the city said.

The total number of fatal overdoses has increased in Virginia from 1,626 in 2019 to 2,053 just in the first half of 2020.

“Of those, 1,701 were related to opioid related overdoses,” the city said, “with 474 related to prescription opioids and 1,498 related to fentanyl, heroin, or both.”

There were 69 opioid overdoses in Alexandria in 2018, of which eight were fatal. In 2019, there were 73 opioid overdoses, of which 14 were fatal. As of November 30, 2020, there have been 85 opioid overdoses, of which 13 were fatal.

The city said residents can get access to Narcan, which can help someone experiencing an overdose, for free by mail.

“The drug Naloxone, also known as Narcan, can save the life of someone who is experiencing an opioid overdose, if given in time,” the city said. “Any Alexandria resident can obtain Narcan by mail for free by emailing their name and address to [email protected] or pick up a dose of the easy-to-use nasal spray by calling the Alexandria Health Department at 703.746.4888 or the City’s Opioid Response Coordinator at 703.746.3326. Narcan is also available at pharmacies without a prescription.”

Staff photo by Airey

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