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Hernando County deaths by drug overdoses spiked drastically in 2021

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In 2021, Hernando County recorded a sharp increase in deaths by accidental drug overdoses compared to 2020, according to the Sheriff’s Office. In a media report, Sheriff Al Nienhuis called the trend “alarming” and cautioned family members and friends of drug users to be aware of the sharp increase in overdose deaths.

Specifically, the Sheriff’s Office on Dec. 30 reported that there were 75 accidental overdose deaths for 2021, or 38 more than reported in 2020, which represents an increase of approximately 103 percent. In addition to these known cases of death by drug overdose, another 13 cases currently under investigation by the Medical Examiner’s Office may cause the 2021 death rate to spike to 138 percent of the 2020 total.

During 2020 there was a 32 percent increase in deaths by drug overdose compared to 2019 when 28 people overdosed. Overdose deaths in 2020 totaled 37 persons.

The death rates only tell part of the story. Reported accidental overdoses (without death) also rose dramatically last year. The Sheriff’s Office reports that as of Dec. 29, 2021, fire rescue responded to 244 accidental overdoses compared to 150 in 2020, an increase of 63 percent. Relative to nonfatal accidental overdoses in 2019 compared to 2020 the percentage of increase was even higher. In 2019, there were 28 overdoses reported compared to 150 in 2020, a 436 percent spike.

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The year 2020 also saw an increase in accidental overdose deaths when the number rose from 28 in 2019 to 37 in 2020, an increase of 32 percent. The number of reported accidental overdoses (without death) responded to by the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office is also on the rise. It should be noted, this data on accidental overdoses (without death) does not reflect responses that fire rescue has responded to without requesting law enforcement. The number went from 150 reported accidental overdoses (without death) in 2020 to 244 in 2021, an increase of nearly 63 percent. The numbers were even worse in 2020 when the number of reported accidental overdoses went from 28 to 150, representing a 436 percent spike.

The CDC National Center for Health Statistics estimates there were 100,306 drug overdose deaths in the United States during the 12-month period ending in April 2021. That is an estimated increase of 28.5% from the 78,056 deaths during the same period the year before.

The CDC estimates show that opioids are by far the quickest, most potent killers. During the same 12-month period ending in April 2021, a CDC estimate indicates 75,673 deadly overdoses occurred from opioids compared to 56,064 in the previous year. Overdose deaths from “synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl) and psychostimulants such as methamphetamine also increased in the 12-month period ending in April 2021,” according to the CDC report.

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