Views expressed in this blog are mine alone and are not intended to represent Williamson County policy nor intended as legal advice.
To date, 13 of 33 death inquests ruled accidental have involved a drug overdose. That’s roughly 40% of all accidental deaths that I alone have handled as JP this year. In 2021, 26 of 61, or 42%, of accidental deaths were drug-related. The other JPs no doubt have similar numbers. The primary drugs of choice are fentanyl, methamphetamine, and alcohol, either alone or in combination. In fact, most overdose deaths I see are from multiple drug toxicity.
Recently, someone posted on Instagram a copy of a tweet I made in February about COVID-19 numbers and implied I had no concerns over the “fentanyl pandemic”. Obviously, this is untrue. I am concerned about the increase in overdose deaths the county has seen since 2020. Our forensic pathologist, Dr. Satish Chundru, brought the uptick in overdoses to the JPs attention in April of 2021, noting that he had seen a significant uptick in overdoses of fentanyl in younger people. Previously he’d seen heroin and meth but was now finding fentanyl in more cases. Currently, the DEA is investigating several fentanyl-related deaths in our community.
So, what can you and I do to fight against this rise in drug deaths? First is understanding the causes of addiction. Addiction is a complex process dependent on multiple factors. Some of the risk factors include genetics (40-60% of risk), personality traits, medical disorders, developmental factors, social factors, and drug characteristics. An individual with personality traits such as impulsiveness, anxiety, and hopelessness are at higher risk, as are those with mental health disorders. Developmental factors such as early use, family use and relationships, traumatic childhood experiences and peer pressure come with increased risk. Anti-social behavior and isolation also increased risk. Social factors such as employment, opportunity, and community attributes contribute to risk. Not all drugs are as addictive as others. Heroin, cocaine, and tobacco all have higher dependency risks.
As we can see, the risk factors are many and complex. It’s not simply a matter of weakness but can arise from many elements. Knowing how to talk to a friend or family member experiencing addiction becomes very important if we want to reduce the risk of death. Supporting them starts with education. Understand the causes and how it impacts everyone involved. Get support from groups like al-anon or seek counseling. Look to your mental health providers in the area for more specialized help. Don’t enable by financially supporting the person. Have realistic expectations. Recovery is a lifelong process that may include therapy, residential treatment, sober living communities, and seeking help for any mental health issues fueling the dependence, such as anxiety or depression. Be supportive of their efforts to stop and be non-judgmental of their relapses. Don’t shame or ignore or give ultimatums.
Resources: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/addiction/causes-addiction https://www.trihealth.com/dailyhealthwire/wellness-and-fitness/7-tips-for-helping-someone-with-an-addiction https://www.insider.com/guides/health/mental-health/what-not-to-say-to-someone-with-a-drug-addiction https://www.farcanada.org/understanding-addiction/risk-factors/
Mental health and Substance Abuse centers: The Arbor Behavioral Healthcare https://thearbor.com/?utmsource=google&utmmedium=local&utmcampaign=gmb Phoenix House https://phoenixhousetx.org/locations/round-rock/ Rock Springs https://rockspringshealth.com/ New Hope Ranch https://www.newhoperanch.com/?utmsource=google&utm_medium=local Cenikor https://www.cenikor.org/