Take Back Day events happening Saturday as drug overdose calls increase in Chatham County

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Chatham Emergency Services says crews are responding to more drug overdose calls this year. Some medical experts blame the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.

So far this year, data from Chatham EMS shows crews have responded to 303 drug overdose calls. This time last year, they responded to 219. The number could be higher when you factor in calls related to people who were already unconscious or not breathing, explained Chief of Operations Phil Koster.

Koster says the pandemic could be the reason behind an increase in calls. But he notes that numbers have been increasing for decades. Lately, he says drug overdoses have been more difficult to handle.

“Nowadays, because of the higher classifications of of prescriptions that are being cut in with other things from the prescription market — the purity is changing… It can take 2,3,4 times the dose of Narcan to have the same effect that it did years ago because of the potency of drugs on the street,” said Koster.

Drug overdose calls can include those who consumed both illicit or prescription opioids. In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say prescription opioid-involved death rates declined by 13.5%.

Medical experts say the pandemic is not helping.

“We’re seeing a higher rates of insecurity, a higher rate of fatigue, financial worries, things of that nature, and that’s leading to an elevated increased use of opioids and that’s the concern for us,” said Dr. Jay Goldstein, Memorial Health’s Emergency Department Medical Director.

Memorial Health is one of several entities hosting Take Back Day events in the Coastal Empire.

“We will take your unwanted and unused medications, needles, syringes, all kinds of opioids. Essentially, any medicine you don’t want in your household,” said Dr. Goldstein.

Keeping any expired medication can be dangerous, especially for children.

“They can figure out those child proof caps and they can get into that and that potency — especially for a child that has a lower weight earlier in life — is extremely dangerous,” said Koster. “So we always encourage people: if you’re done with your prescription, if you’re not going to use it, please dispose of it.”

See below for information about Memorial Health’s event and click here for information about others:

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