There were no fatal car crashes involving drunk drivers over the long holiday weekend, but that good news was overshadowed by a spike in drug overdose deaths.
Eleven Delawareans died from drug overdoses during the Thanksgiving weekend, from Wednesday through Sunday. The deaths involved men and women, ranging in age from 23 to 62.
“Eleven is a lot over a weekend. Eleven is a lot,” said Dr. Kara Odom Walker, secretary of Delaware’s Dept. of Health and Social Services. “We really have not seen that many in a short time period.”
Odom Walker can’t explain why, but said the stress of the holidays can be a trigger for people struggling with addiction.
“I was asking my team to take a look at prior trends from the previous year and we saw kind of the same trend, where there were these spikes during the holiday time period,” she said. “These are times when families typically come together. It could bring issues from childhood, it could bring up the loss or memories of loved ones, it could be that people are experiencing increased financial difficulty with trying to balance putting food on the table with the expectation of gifts and providing for additional emotional and other kinds of support and I think that can be very hard to balance.”
So far this year, the total number of deaths from suspected overdoses in Delaware stands at 216.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving said last year 37 deaths were blamed on drunken driving in the First State, and state records show that 308 died from overdoses in 2016.
Odom Walker hopes the sobering news will remind families and those who are actively using drugs to seek out connections to treatment. Individuals and families also visit DHSS’ website, www.HelpIsHereDE.com, for addiction treatment and recovery services in Delaware and nearby states.