Cortland, N.Y. (NCC News) – The holiday season is right around the corner, and it can be considered the worst time of year for substance overdoses. Substance overdose numbers have been on the rise over the past couple of years. A record high 96,779 drug overdose deaths occurred between March 2020 and March 2021 according to the CDC . Onondaga County has seen an 8% increase with 93 deaths this year.
In recent years, overdoses have increased by 22% during the holiday months of November, December, and January. The holiday stresses that have caused this spike range from:
- financial issues
- peer pressure to consume alcohol that could lead to the consumption of other drugs
- seasonal affective disorder
- family issues.
This holiday season may be even more stressful as there is inflation and supply issues on top of all of the normal stresses that occur. Healing Hearts Collaborative Volunteer Dean O’Gorman is sharing his story, spreading awareness, and offering Narcan trainings to help combat this nationwide issue.
“I missed the signs. I didn’t know what the signs were,” O’Gorman said.
O’Gorman lost his son, Spencer, in 2017 to a substance overdose. Since then, he has made it his goal to train as many people in Narcan training as possible so no one else has to go through what he went through.
“It’s our first defense in saving lives,” O’Gorman said. “And that’s just proven time and time again. With the increase in lives being lost we need to find every tool possible and put them to use.”
The CNY Prevention Network is prepping for an influx of calls during these holiday months. The organization has family support navigators on staff to provide information to people who don’t know where to turn to next. All of their services are free.
Some tips during the holidays are to:
- reach out to loved ones over text or call
- don’t worry about the gifts: instead enjoy quality time with your family
- have non-alcoholic options available during gatherings
- have Narcan present if needed
- ask questions to start conversations with the person in which you may be worried about.
CNY Prevention Network Team Leader Donna Knapp recommended staying away from gifting alcohol or lottery tickets as that could be a gateway to possible substance abuse and an overdose.
“If somebody is suffering or has a substance abuse disorder in their history that that gift that you think is a gesture of good will might actually be something negative for that person,” Knapp said.
Both volunteers from their organizations emphasized knowing your local resources, and having at-home preventative tips ready for this stressful holiday season.