Georgia Leaders Remain 'Cautiously Optimistic' After Nationwide Overdose Deaths Fall 5% In 2018

Jul 19, 2019

This week the federal government said it's encouraged by a decline in overdose deaths from opioids. But, while the Georgia Department of Public Health and other state leaders said they are encouraged by the drop in deaths, they are not ready to call the decline a trend as Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar did.

“We are cautiously optimistic; however, it is too soon to know definitively if these decreases will continue over time,” DPH spokeswoman Nancy Nydam said.

The state health department is closely monitoring the number of overdose deaths in the state to determine whether small decreases will become a trend.

The Statewide Opioid Task Force met last week for the fifth time since October 2017, Attorney General Chris Carr said. The group has met in the Atlanta area as well as in Augusta and Columbus to communicate across agencies statewide including police, courts, local activists and the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse.

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“The opioid crisis is one that knows no demographic, geographic or economic boundaries,” Carr said. “It doesn't matter where I go in the state of Georgia. Families are being impacted by it, individuals are dealing with it, companies are having to deal with it and schools are having to deal with it. This is just a big issue and the more we’re able to talk about it the better off we are.”

Carr said the group has discussed neonatal abstinence syndrome, the impact of drugs on rural parts of the state and, most recently, about the stigma associated with the disease of addiction and whether people seek or get treatment.

Last year, 867 Georgians died of opioid-related overdoses, according to the state health department. Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show fatal overdoses fell 5% in 2018.

In Cobb County, overdoses were the second leading cause of death in 2018, according to the medical examiner's office.

DPH will continue its prevention and education on the misuse of opioids – those prescribed and those obtained illegally - to help end the epidemic in Georgia, Nydam said.