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Why Do Drug Overdoses Increase In Winter?

Addiction treatment programs are vital recovery resources at any time of year. But in some cases, the urgency of seeking help may rise even higher. For example, in wintertime, the chances of overdosing can increase by a substantial amount. That’s especially true if your loved one uses an opioid street drug or prescription medication. Why do drug overdoses increase in winter among people who take opioids? No one knows for sure. However, researchers have a few ideas about potential reasons.

Opioid Overdose Facts and Statistics

By a wide margin, more Americans overdose on opioids than on any other substances. Most overdoses don’t have fatal results. Nevertheless, tens of thousands of affected people die each year.

The vast majority of fatal opioid overdoses don’t involve natural or partly synthetic substances such as:

  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Heroin

 Instead, they involve a fully synthetic option like fentanyl. With few exceptions, the annual number of these fatal events has risen steadily since the start of the 21st century. The most recent available figures show that more than 80,000 people per year die after overdosing on an opioid.

Winter and Overdoses – What the Numbers Tell Us

Winter is the coldest season of the year. Depending on where you live, the average winter temperature may be as high as 67F or as low as 2.6F. Not counting Alaska and Hawaii, the nation’s overall average for the season is just over 33F. That’s only one degree above freezing.

Over the course of winter, daily temperatures can change quite a bit. Some days are relatively warm. In contrast, cold snaps can drop the temperature way below average for the season. Spells of warmer or colder weather may last for days or even weeks at a time.

What is the impact of winter on your loved one’s chances of overdosing on opioids? Research provides us with some significant findings. When winter temperatures reach even the low 50s, the odds of a fatal overdose don’t rise. However, the situation changes when temperatures start to fall toward freezing or below. In these circumstances, a cold snap of three to seven days can increase fatality risks by a whopping 25% to 30%.

Potential Reasons

Why do drug overdoses increase in winter? Researchers don’t have a clear answer to this question. But they do have some working theories. According to these theories, possible explanations include:

  • Changes in the ways people behave when cold weather hits
  • The increased difficulty of breathing cold air
  • Opioids’ impact on your loved one’s ability to regulate their body temperature
  • Changes in the local drug supply during the winter season

Each of these factors may play a significant role. For example, some people increase their risks by using more opioids in cold weather. Combined with the effects of opioids themselves, breathing problems during winter may pose a serious danger. The same holds true for problems maintaining normal body temperature. If your loved one finds it harder to obtain opioids in wintertime, they may switch to stronger options than usual. Curiously, the temperature on the actual day of an overdose doesn’t appear to have a major impact.

Learn More About Skywood Recovery’s Addiction Treatment Programs

Want to know more about the connection between winter and overdoses? Consult the professionals at Skywood Recovery. We’ll be happy to share the latest findings and help you stay aware of the risks.

Know someone who needs help for opioid problems? Skywood features extensive rehab options for both opioid abuse and addiction. We focus on using these options in a coordinated, caring recovery plan. Call us today at 269.280.4673 for more information. We’re also available through our online form.