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4 to 5 Georgians died from overdose each day in 2020
Data shows 21 Newton residents died from drug overdose last year
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New data from the Gwinnett, Newton, Rockdale Health Departments shows nearly 2,000 Georgians died from drug overdose in 2020 — 21 were reportedly from Newton County. (Photo courtesy of Metro Creative Services)

COVINGTON, Ga. — Four to five Georgians died each day from drug overdose in 2020.

Data shows nearly 2,000 people across the state died from overdose last year, and according to the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments, 21 were from Newton County.

Opioid Surveillance and Prevention Specialist Tom Branch Jr. recently unveiled drug overdose statistics for GNRC’s district. Drugs included “any over the counter, prescription or illicit drugs.” It was also noted that statistics are “preliminary and subject to change.”

From January to December 2020, there were 1,839 overdose deaths across the state, and 1,237 (60%) were opioid related. According to data from the CDC, this was an increase from the 1,408 overdose deaths in 2019. There were 1,404 overdose deaths recorded in 2018. 

Branch reported 152 people within the three-county area died as result of overdose, and 80% of those deaths were opioid related.

Thirteen of the 21 overdose deaths (62%) in Newton County were opioid related, he said.

Overdose deaths in Gwinnett County rose to 114 in 2020; 94 (82%) were opioid related. 

Rockdale County saw the fewest total overdose deaths — 17 — but 14  (82%) were related to opioids.

Per month, Georgia averaged nearly 154 overdose deaths. July was considered the deadliest month with 188 overdoses.

County-by-county data for 2019 was not readily available at the time of this publication.

As the drug overdose death toll seems to rise each year, Branch said the health departments are working with state organizations to combat the epidemic.

“Our partner, Georgia Overdose Prevention gave out 4,000 Narcan Rescue Kits in Georgia for the month of May,” Branch said. “The largest previous month was 1,200 kits. Georgia Overdose Prevention also has had 100 overdose reversals in May, [meaning] 100 lives saved!”

Health Departments Communications Director Chad Wasdin said there are other things being done to fight the problem.

“The health department has staffed a position to collaboratively work with our communities to address the opioid epidemic,” he said. “We are working directly with local and federal law enforcement agencies by promoting the use of [an overdose mapping tool], collecting relevant public health data to share with partner agencies, and building collaborative relationships between local, state and federal partners. 

“We have developed a partnership and work with local High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) intelligence officers and the DEA community outreach coordinators,” Wasdin added. “We also have partnered with our community drug-free coalitions to help promote their messaging in the community, including providing Narcan training and distribution.”

Strides have also been made statewide, specifically in the battle against opioid abuse.

The Georgia Department of Public Health houses the Opioid and Substance Misuse Response Unit, which “is responsible for leading statewide strategic planning efforts to respond to the opioid epidemic and other emerging substance misuse.”

In recent years, lawmakers have worked to expand the availability of medication-assisted treatment to help people break their opioid addictions and try to reduce the overdose rate.

However, Gov. Brian Kemp wants to continue increasing the state’s efforts against the opioid crisis. In an opinion-editorial published by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in January 2018, Kemp stated, “Together, we can stop the opioid epidemic from destroying lives, ruining communities, and tarnishing the sterling reputation of our great state. With a comprehensive, common-sense approach, we can remain a state of success – not one in need of on-camera intervention.”