May 27, 2020

Why cold weather increases overdose deaths

As we gear up for a cold weekend, we're learning overdoses actually spike when temperatures drop. Evan Radtke knows what it's like to try to hide an addiction to opioids.

“When I was in it I lived basically a double life, and you call it a chameleon effect where you can adapt to what you want me to be, and you would never know that I was struggling with what you'd say was opiate addiction or alcoholism,” Radtke said.

He remembers winter being one of the hardest times surviving his addiction.

“It's very easy to get in that isolation when you have doom and gloom outside if it's a rainy day, or if it's cold or it's grey, it kind of matches how you feel, and my solution for dealing with all of my underlying issues is to treat it with alcohol and drugs,” Radtke said.


He says the spike in overdoses in the winter stems from two major things: cold temperatures and more forced interaction with friends and family.

“I don't want my family to know, I can't go into active withdrawals. Maybe I'll make sure this time, especially being around people who care about me and know who I am, maybe I'll take a little bit extra caution and make sure I get enough drugs or enough alcohol to make sure I'm myself and not this chaotic person,” Radtke said.

On the other hand, addiction expert Brian Sullivan says cold temperatures can keep people from realizing they're even experiencing an overdose.

“When your body goes into chills to let you know, when your body does that, it's to warm up your body. It's to move your body and let you know that you're too cold and to warm you up, but when you're on an opioid high often times, that has a numbing effect,” Sullivan said.

Despite this being one of the toughest times, people actually reach out for help less in the winter months, making excuses about wanting to be with family over the holidays instead of seeking treatment.

by Kathleen Jacob

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