Former addict & mentor offers advice as drug overdoses climb

MEDFORD, Ore —Along with mental health concerns, overdoses are rising a staggering rate since the pandemic.

It’s no secret, it’s not been an easy year for many people.

And the numbers reflect the damage done by COVID-19 extends way beyond the case counts, but now into drug addiction and deaths.

The road to recovery is getting even steeper during the pandemic.

“I have lived experience, I was a meth and heroin user myself, I’ve lived on the streets of Medford,” says Alex Spray with Ontrack.

Alex spray is a recovery mentor at Ontrack in Medford, she once lived with addiction, now she helps others get through the battles she once fought herself.

But, during the pandemic she’s noticed a  troubling trend.

“We’ve had a lot more people just walking in and asking for help, and so yeah we’ve been pretty busy here during COVID,” says Spray.

Last week, the Oregon Health Authority said there’s a nearly 40% increase in overdose deaths in the state, between January and June, the OHA says 339 people died from overdose. It’s a course that it says is also reflected nationwide.

Eddie Wallace with Ontrack says this statistics don’t come as a surprise.

“Given the pandemic, that overdose rates are rising in Oregon and across the country because the pandemic exacerbates all of those factors that go into substance abuse and unfortunately overdoses,” says Wallace.

Wallace says some of those factors include isolation, depression, anxiety, and economic uncertainty.

“What folks can do is get themselves or their loved ones into treatment and realize that there are treatment options,” says Wallace.

Spray says it all comes down to taking that first step, “it means everything to me to watch somebody get it and to find that light.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or a mental health crisis there are many resources available.

For more information, you can visit,

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Jenna King is the 6pm anchor and our Feature Reporter at 10pm and 11pm for NBC5 News. Jenna is a Burbank, CA native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Sports Business. During her time at Oregon she was part of the student-run television station, Duck TV. She also grew her passion for sports through her internship with the PAC 12 Network. When Jenna is not in the newsroom you can find her rooting for her hometown Dodgers, exploring the outdoors or binging on the latest Netflix release.
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