Drug-related deaths now outpace fatalities stemming from car accidents in the state of Virginia for the first time ever, newly released data has shown.
Following a nationwide increase in drug addiction and death, particularly related to heroin, 728 Virginians lost their lives to drugs in 2014, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported on Oct. 11 — an increase from 661 in 2013. During the same time period, only 700 highway deaths were recorded, a decrease from 741 in 2013.
Because determining whether an individual died of a drug-related cause can be a lengthy, elusive process, it’s difficult to find recent drug death figures for 2015 so far. Highway deaths for the year so far are trending slightly upward from last year’s data.
Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring called these new figures for drug-related deaths alarming, especially given the state’s renewed efforts to combat heroin use and drug addiction among residents.
“The heroin and prescription drug epidemic is a public health issue, a public safety and law enforcement issue and, most importantly, it’s a family issue,” Herring said in a news release. “The rising and tragic death toll adds a dose of reality and a sense of urgency to our efforts and those of our local, state and federal partners.”
Among Virginia’s efforts to combat drug use include changes to state laws to help recovering addicts, as well as more lenient sentencing laws for people convicted on drug-related charges. But how do people suffering from drug addiction get access to the treatment programs they need to move forward into recovery?
“There has been a tremendous increase in hard-drug use and associated overdose deaths throughout the United States over the past half decade,” says Arnold Hesnod, Clinical Outreach, Clear Sky Recovery. “Record numbers of drug-dependent individuals are facing a grim future with little chance of long-term success at traditional detoxes and rehabs. We have had tremendous success utilizing ibogaine treatment to break the cycle of drug-dependence. ”
In Virginia, officials are working to establish community outreach programs aimed at familiarizing students with the harmful outcomes of drug use, WUSA 9 reported. Currently, the majority of overdoses take place in those between 25 and 34 years of age.
Additionally, addiction treatment centers like the McShin Foundation in Henrico County are working to expand care options for people with addiction. Still, CEO Honesty Liller stressed that the facility primarily runs on donor funds and other contributions, meaning it may be up to the state to fund more substantive treatment options statewide.