/ Modified aug 21, 2020 5:26 p.m.

UA professor: Pandemic fueling rise in substance misuse, relapses

A discussion with Todd Vanderah, director of the UA's Comprehensive Pain and Addiction Center.

Fentanyl continues to kill residents in Pima County at a higher rate than last year, according to data from the Pima County Health Department. Through July, 87 people died from fentanyl overdoses. The county recorded 89 fatal fentanyl overdoses for all of 2019. It projects that number will top 150 by the end of 2020. Deadly overdoses from all drugs have been on an upward trajectory in Pima County since March, the same month when the pandemic entered the forefront. The timing likely isn’t a coincidence, as Arizona 360 heard from Todd Vanderah. Vanderah heads the University of Arizona Department of Pharmacology and serves as director for the UA’s new Comprehensive Pain and Addiction Center, which formed in response to the opioid epidemic.

“The last few months now we’ve actually seen more drug overdoses in the state of Arizona than we did at our peak in 2017,” Vanderah said. “And I think the increase is obviously due to the fact that this pandemic has resulted in social distancing, which I think is almost the opposite of what people who are using and misusing substances need. They actually need a support team. They need to reach out.”

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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