New record for overdose deaths in La Crosse County, study shows increase in substance abuse

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – There is a new record for overdose deaths in La Crosse County.

So far this year, there have been 35 overdose deaths, compared to 22 for all of last year.

There have been two overdose deaths just this week in the county.

Health experts continue to see an increase in substance abuse since the pandemic first hit.

A study recently published in ‘Sage Open Medicine’ surveyed more than 1,018 people between 18 and 25 living across the Midwest.

It found that loneliness is the number one reason people are turning to substance abuse.

And between the use of alcohol, marijuana, vaping, and tobacco, alcohol consumption increased the most — by 70%.

Tobacco, vaping, and marijuana use are decreasing though — for an interesting reason.

“Covid-19 is a respiratory illness. Therefore, young adults could be cautious while using marijuana, vaping, or smoking because they’re concerned or cautious that this could have adverse effects on their lungs,” said Pravesh Sharma, M.D., a psychiatrist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, and the study’s lead author.

The survey also asked participants about how the pandemic has impacted their mental health.

Many of them said they feel more anxious and/or depressed.

Sharma said being socially distant doesn’t mean we need to be socially isolated, it’s important to make time to talk to your loved ones.

Here’s a break down of some of the data the study found:

  •  53.2% of respondents reported vaping or using tobacco, alcohol, and/or marijuana.
  • Nearly 70% increased alcohol consumption.
  • Vaping decreased in 44% of people, while 27.9% of people increased use
  • Tobacco use decreased in 47.3% of people, while 24.1% of people increased use
  • Of the 140 people who described a change in marijuana use, 39.2% increased use and 36% decreased use.
  • About 50% of people self-reported having an anxiety disorder
  • About 50% of people reported having depression