One Death is too Many


Author: Dr. Julie. Sorenson, DMFT, MA, LPC

Overdoses are on the rise

Over this past weekend, there was an uptick in drug-related deaths in Kalamazoo County. Health officials recognize a significant increase in deaths due to overdose. “Harm reduction precautions such as not using drugs alone, administering naloxone when a suspected overdose is occurring, and calling 911 are important efforts at this time,” said Kalamazoo County Medical Director Dr. William Nettleton. Many people that have odd have taken cocaine, fentanyl, or unknown substances, according to the Kalamazoo County Medical Examiner. Risks are ongoing when people mix stimulant drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamines and depressant drugs like fentanyl or opioids. The number one cause of death is Fentanyl Poisoning, according to Maidenber, 2023. Lethal consequences are occurring nationwide, as even a small amount of fentanyl can cause death.


COVID-19 Created Additional Stress

COVID-19 intensified the trend of deaths due to overdoses. These deaths are not unique to Kalamazoo County, as every state has reported increased deaths due to overdoses. There has additionally been an increase in alcohol-related deaths. Directly and indirectly, our youth were affected because of the increased stress and isolation related to COVID-19. It is essential to have consistent support when faced with substance abuse.

There is a new term that some experts are using “drug-poisoning crisis” rather than “overdose crisis.” Youth suffer from anxiety, depression, and PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder which sometimes leads to drug and alcohol use. Often these young people have negative cognitions where they think they are permanently damaged and shameful and have a lot of guilt, sometimes leading to suicide or drug overdoses.


Suicide is the Second Leading Cause of Death in Our Youth!

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people from 10-25, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NAMI). The NAMI indicates an estimated 20% of high school students have thoughts of suicide, while 9% have attempted suicide. Young people may feel embarrassed and have difficulty asking for help (Maidenberg, 2023). A young person’s brain isn’t fully developed until their mid 20’s, which sometimes can create impulsivity and a lack of decision-making (Maidenber, 2023). Suicide and drug prevention are critical for preventing unnecessary deaths.

Now What?

Education is essential to expand awareness to help decrease overdoses and suicides. Providing a suicide awareness program in schools can help people know where to go for help and warning signs and risk factors. Asking someone if they have thoughts of suicide may be scary for the person asking, but to the person having thoughts of suicide, it can be beneficial. Knowing the Suicide Prevention phone number is crucial. The number is 988, and many students have it on their school ids. 988 is a suicide and crisis lifeline and is available 24/7 you can also text the crisis text line by texting TALK to 741741 The Gryphon Place is another entity that can assist in suicide and their number is 211. Talk to your kids, keeping communication open. Sometimes topics are uncomfortable, but talking with your kids about the hard stuff is essential. Professionals are here to assist, and looking for a local therapist to help provide coping mechanisms and a safe space to share thoughts and feelings can be helpful. Psychology Today can assist in finding a therapist in your area. For fentanyl poisoning information, contact the US Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit (Maidenberg, 2023).


Anthony, C & Johnson, M, 2023, Kalamazoo County Investigating Drug Overdose Deaths, Kalamazoo County Health Department Government, Health, and Community Media Release

Bizzel, A, 2021, Mind Your Health, Why Overdose Awareness Matters More Than Ever :Time to remember. Time to act” Psychology Today

Maidenberg, M, 2023 The Frightening Truth About Youth Suicidality and Fentanyl, Our kids are not ok, Psychology Today


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