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Connecticut Drug Use On The Rise Amid Pandemic

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Public health officials addressing the opioid crisis in Connecticut say drug use and overdoses increased nearly 30 percent this fall compared to last year.

Mark Jenkins runs Greater Hartford Harm Reduction Coalition, which responds at the street level to deliver overdose antidotes. Jenkins said he has had to meet more basic needs of opioid users because of the pandemic economic crisis.

“I’m used to bringing syringes and stuff like that to people, not sandwiches. But we fill in need where need exists,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins asked U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and state officials for resources for pandemic relief and medication assisted addiction treatment.

He said states need a public campaign to change the negative perception of life-saving treatments like methadone and suboxone.

Robert Lawlor is a drug intelligence officer. He said he is seeing new drug use during the pandemic — from veterinary tranquilizers to stimulants.

“We are seeing the rise and possibly the beginning of widespread meth use in Connecticut. The sex workers alliance network out of new haven has seen increased meth use and has begun giving out safe meth smoking kits,” Lawlor said.

Lawlor said the work combating overdose deaths has gotten harder as more people in addiction recovery had to isolate.

Cassandra Basler, a former senior editor at WSHU, came to the station by way of Columbia Journalism School in New York City. When she's not reporting on wealth and poverty, she's writing about food and family.