YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN0 – Ohio State Troopers are calling it a “troubling trend” with impaired drivers getting behind the wheel.
Those who treat substance abuse think it’s affecting all walks of life and could be tied to the pandemic.
“I think the pandemic affected all of us, and I think it affects everyone in a different way,” said Duane Piccirilli, executive director of the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board.
In figures released this week, the Ohio State Highway Patrol has recorded nearly 5,600 OVI arrests since the first of the year, more than 800 over last year’s numbers.
Just this week, the patrol has released a new online dashboard to track OVI statistics in the state.
With the exception of Columbiana County, local figures have not changed that much. Still, local leaders say they have seen an increase in drug and alcohol abuse, in part, because people couldn’t get out but also with the daily drumbeat of the nightly news.
“It would be a pretty grim situation if people have any type of triggers, it could set them off that they’d use that to almost self-medicate,” Piccirilli said.
Experts believe what’s happening, whether with motorists or others, is more alcohol or drug abuse, but it could easily become an addiction.
“If family and friends are keeping an eye out, making sure people aren’t driving while they’re impaired but also just making sure they’re getting the socialization and maybe the services they need,” said Brenda Heidinger, associate director of the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board.
Experts say education is the key to mitigate impaired driving and substance abuse, letting people know help is available if they need it.