Watch your 'wine o'clock.' Charlotte has increased in overdoses, drinking during COVID

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A shot of whiskey is poured. - Dreamstime/TNS

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Drug overdoses have increased in Charlotte, according to police, and addiction specialists say they’re concerned people are drinking too much alcohol and resorting to drugs while stuck at home.

Since March 26 — when Mecklenburg County began its stay-at-home order — CMPD has responded to 100 emergency calls about drug overdoses. That’s a 24% increase or around 20 additional calls compared to a similar time period last year, said CMPD spokesman Rob Tufano.

Out of the 100 calls, 10 people died, he said.

Director of prevention and intervention at Anuvia, a substance abuse treatment center, Cindy Murphy said that resources and help is available. Prior to the pandemic, there had been a downward trend in overdoses, she said.

Additionally, many are turning to alcohol as a coping mechanism, which could turn into addictions for some, she said.

“I’m sure you’ve seen all the memes,” Murphy said. “‘It’s two o’clock somewhere. It’s wine o’clock somewhere.’”

The concern over substance abuse triggered by the coronavirus pandemic has been shared by other experts.

Coming out of the pandemic, addiction psychiatrist with Atrium Health William Wright said last week he expects new patients struggling with substance abuse as there is increased financial, medical and general stress.

Many of his patients are struggling with isolating, he said.

“We all are social beings … ,” he said. “We need to be with other folks. We are not actually mean to live on an island.”

Wright is still seeing patients — both new and returning — remotely either over video conference or phone, he said. But there are other logistical things he’s still figuring out like how patients should take urine drug tests, a procedure the requires leaving a home.

Nevertheless, he emphasized that there is still “hope and treatment for those who need it … and did not realize the slippery slope of substance use as a coping strategy.”

According to Tufano, there has not been a spike in suicides and with bars and restaurants closed, there has not been any noticeable changes in DWI or drinking and driving charges.

However, that hasn’t stopped people from stocking up on alcohol at home. As of April 3, ABC stores have seen a 30% increase in sales compared a year ago, according to the Mecklenburg County ABC Commission.


©2020 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)