Addiction treatment community sending message to those who need help

WATCH: Addiction treatment community sending message to those who need help

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County has seen a spike of drug overdoses.

The information came from the Shelby County Health Department, which has set up across town to ensure people have access to life-saving measures like Narcan.

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The addiction treatment community heard the news and they have a message for those who are struggling right now.

“We were worried in the sense that we kind of foresaw something like this happening,” said Dr. Marthinus Zeenman, addiction specialist of UT University Clinical Health Addiction Medicine. “That people are going to be stressed, and usually with stress, people use more.”

According to the Shelby County Health Department, in the last 60 days, there have been 700 overdoses and 102 overdose deaths.

“It gives me goosebumps to think about because they could have been helped,” Dr. Zeeman said.

He said he worries patients don’t know there are services available.

“They get in treatment, they get sober, and it’s like a 180,” Dr. Zeeman said. “They get their house back, their kids back.”

Across town, at Integrated Addiction Care, Dr. Shawn Hamm's office is nearly empty, but that is not due to a lack of patients.

In fact, it’s the opposite.

Roughly 80 percent of their work is now done via telemedicine.

“Addiction in and of itself can be very isolating,” Dr. Hamm said. “When you have to even do that even more, it becomes a problem. So, people become more vulnerable to relapse.”

When people go to Baptist hospitals to seek help, they’re immediately connected to Dr. Hamm’s team, so they can begin the process of recovery.

But with fewer people going to the ER due to COVID-19 concerns, Dr. Hamm worries there is an entire population that suffers in silence.

“When someone is asking for help and they are reaching out, we need to be able to engage them,” Dr. Hamm said.