In Montgomery County, Ohio, the coroner’s office has been so inundated by overdose deaths this year that it has resorted to setting up makeshift facilities.
Since the coroner’s office is so overcrowded with corpses, it has turned to local funeral parlor to take in bodies for temporary storage, the first time it has ever had to make that request. Kenneth Betz, the director of the coroner’s office, says, “We’re running at full capacity. We’ve never experienced this volume of accidental drug overdoses in our history.”
The opioid epidemic has been fueled by a practice of reckless overprescribing of powerful pain medication by the medical establishment and its subsequent abuse by patients turned addicts. When they are cut off by doctors, they often turn to heroin, a cheaper and increasingly more available alternative. Nationwide, more and more, heroin is being mixed with fentanyl, a cheaper synthetic opioid that may be up to 50 times more potent than heroin, so that dealers can maximize their supply and profits.
The result has been a staggering rate of death that shows no signs of slowing. The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office reports that in just 33 days of this year, there have been 163 accidental overdoses have been reported. For comparison, in 2015, the office saw 253 of such deaths, meaning that this year’s totals are on track to be seven times as much than they were just two years prior. And Ohio doesn’t even have the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the country, with West Virginia and New Hampshire being statistically worse off, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This county in Ohio is just a microcosm of what’s been going on nationwide. Uniformly, rates of overdose have been on an exponential climb while lawmakers and community leaders struggle to find an answer. Naloxone, the overdose reversal drug perhaps best known under the brand name Narcan, has been helpful in many cases but supplies have been running short and like the morgue in Montgomery, unable to match the lethal pace of heroin and fentanyl. Policymakers and legislators have been scrambling to impose stiffer penalties for drug distributors in the hopes that this will curtail the amount of overdoses, but the efficacy of this remains to be seen.
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