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Drug overdoses show record highs for 2020 for La Crosse County

La Crosse County Medical Examiner Tim Candahl has seen cases rise as high as 85 percent over...
La Crosse County Medical Examiner Tim Candahl has seen cases rise as high as 85 percent over the case rate last year.(WEAU)
Published: Dec. 10, 2020 at 7:08 PM CST
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) -

2020 is a hard year for all of us, and some people are coping better than others.

One trend medical professionals are seeing during the pandemic is an uptick in drug overdoses.

“Over the last year we’ve seen a pretty dramatic increase in overdose deaths and overdoses in general,” said Dr. Chris Eberlein, Medical Director with Gundersen Tri-State Ambulance.

Drug overdose cases and deaths continue to rise around the country--and close to home, La Crosse County Medical Examiner Tim Candahl has seen cases rise as high as 85 percent over the case rate last year.

“Last year our number was 22 drug-related deaths and as long as I’ve been here I think there have been 27 is probably the record we had prior years,” said Candahl. “Going from 22 to 42 and even higher, we’ve got a couple weeks left so hopefully we can keep those numbers where they’re at, but obviously it’s very alarming that the numbers have doubled that much within a year.”

Dr. Eberlein says many factors have contributed to the spike.

“Heroin itself has gone down in use but it’s been replaced with very powerful synthetics,” Eberlein said. “Then you couple that with the stresses from the pandemic that have caused people to have worsening mental health in general and driving a lot of people to use more.”

But medical professionals says they are working to reverse those numbers with more widespread use of medication like Narcan.

“Narcan reverses the respiratory system and tells the body to start breathing again,” Candahl said.

“Five to ten years ago, we would use about .4 milligrams of Narcan to wake someone up,” said Eberlein. “The average dose that we’re given now is four milligrams so it’s a 10-times increase in Narcan.”

“Not having Narcan, we’d probably be looking at about a 160-percent increase in overdose deaths,” added Candahl. “Obviously, we feel that there’s been at least 15-20 saved minimum that were saved by Narcan and that’s being really conservative.”

Overall, Candahl and Eberlein both hope to stress the importance of outlets where those struggling with drug addictions can get help.

“We’ve been working really hard to get Narcan out to the community,” Eberlein said. “One of the new things we did is we’ve started to distribute Narcan on-scene from overdoses that have refused to come out to the hospital. The more Narcan we can get out in the community, the better.”

“It’s a sickness, it’s an addiction that needs to be treated,” said Candahl.

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