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Pandemic spike of drug overdoses in America includes Missouri and Kansas

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Myriam Zilles
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Drug overdose saw a spike during the pandemic in both Kansas and Missouri.

The pandemic brought on a multitude of issues, but one that fell by the wayside was the opioid and drug overdose crisis.

Drug overdose deaths in Kansas spiked by nearly 24% last year while overdose deaths in Missouri increased by nearly 20%, according to newly released government figures.

This issue has often been painted as a rural white affliction in the past, but demographics have been shifting as deaths surged among Black Americans.

The Associated Press reported that in the St. Louis area, overdose deaths among Black people skyrocketed more than 33% last year.

One prevailing reason for this is that the epidemic now is driven by illicit fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, meth and cocaine, often in combination or in adulterated forms.

Some say the pandemic has worsened the drug overdose epidemic, with every state reporting a spike in overdose deaths since the beginning of COVID-19.

"What COVID has done is it has increased our social isolation," said Sarah Evans of the International Harm Reduction Development for Open Society Foundations.

Evans added, "We know that people who use drugs are more likely to use them in isolation, and less likely to be able to access key resources that would help them, like overdose reversal medication, and that has exacerbated the situation."

When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
Reginald David is an assistant producer with Up To Date. You can reach him at reginalddavid@kcur.org.
Connor Stewart is an intern for KCUR's Up To Date.