Natural disasters can have devastating effects beyond those typically expected for drug users, according to several studies that have resurfaced in the wake of Hurricane Florence.
Active drug users who lived through Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and those who survived Hurricane Sandy in 2012, made dangerous decisions in the wake of the weather events, two reports — as referenced by Rolling Stone — found.
A 2011 study by Eloise Dunlap and Andrew Golub focused on the experiences of “119 poor, predominantly African American, drug users and sellers” who remained in New Orleans during Katrina. The study concluded that many of them “placed partying, maintaining their habits, and making money ahead of personal safety and evacuation.”
Additionally — the article, titled “Drug markets during the Katrina disaster” — found that many of those interviewed used drugs in congregate shelters, or all together avoided the safe spaces in order to take substances. Further, some of the group that participated in the study was found to have looted stores and homes of drug dealers, and used violence to “achieve their drug-related aims.”
During the a disaster, Dunlap and Golub concluded, “many poor drug users place risks on themselves, their families, their communities and ultimately on rescue workers.”
Another report cited by Rolling Stone — which focused on IV drug users during Hurricane Sandy in New York and was published in 2016 — found that many people who were affected by the storm used drugs.
“During the week after the storm 28 percent rescued others or volunteered with aid groups; 60 percent experienced withdrawal; 27 percent shared drug injection or preparation equipment or injected with people they normally would not inject with,” the article, called “Immediate impact of Hurricane Sandy on people who inject drugs in New York City,” said.
Additionally, 70 percent of participants that were in opioid maintenance therapy were not able to get sufficient doses.
The article concluded that such natural disasters can be seen as a “big event” in the life of a drug user.
On Friday, Hurricane Florence made landfall around 7:15 a.m. EST near Wrightsville Beach on the North Carolina coastline. The hurricane hit as a category 1 storm, leaving destruction and flooding in its wake.
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“If you’re in withdrawal, you’re going to make a desperate call,” Robert Childs, a drug policy consultant at the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, told the Huffington Post. “You may then turn to street drugs or be forced to go through a detox process that you didn’t want.”