Fentanyl

Fentanyl (Credit Image: Crohnie/Wikimedia)

One county in Ohio has officially recorded the most opioid deaths in the US this year.

Montgomery County now lays claim to the unfortunate title of ‘Overdose Capital of America’, thanks to 365 overdose deaths officially cataloged between January and May this year, reports NBC News.

In 2016, a total of 371 people died of drug overdoses there for the entire year, according to the county coroner’s office.

Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer told NBC News that the county anticipates 800 people will die of an overdose by the end of this year and that it is ‘Number 1 in the nation in overdose deaths’ per capita.

The 2010 census puts the county’s population at just over 535,000 people.

Montgomery County sheriff’s deputies are said to respond to several overdose calls a day and deputies carry two doses of Narcan, a nasal spray version of naloxone, a prescription drug that can reverse the effects of an opiod overdose.

However, deputies say that being armed with those two doses of Narcan isn’t always enough — one deputy told NBC News that 20 doses were needed to treat a recent overdose victim and noted that even with the emergency treatment, the victims often die anyway.

Plummer told Fox News that ‘the problem is getting worse every day’ and that the county doesn’t have enough police resources to fight the epidemic. ‘We work very hard, it’s changed our jobs,’ he said.

In addition to arresting drug dealers, the sheriff’s deputies have been known to drive opioid-addicted people to treatment centers, try to enlist family members to help their addicted relatives and raise awareness about the dangers of opioid use.

Montgomery County coroner Kent Harshbarger told NBC News he estimates that anywhere from 60 to 70 percent of the bodies that come through his office are overdose victims.

By the end of the year, he and his staff are likely to process some 2,000 overdose victims’ bodies.

No surprise then that the county’s morgue cooler is full of overdose victims and that, during autopsies, the coroner’s office tests for the presence of more than two dozen types of the synthetic opioid, fentanyl.

Because his office is responsible for processing one-fifth of the cases in Ohio, Hashbarger estimates that The Buckeye State alone will clock 10,000 overdose deaths by the end of this year — more than all of the opioid overdose-related deaths recorded in all of America in 1990.

Harshbarger told NBC News that the sheer number of opioid overdose-related deaths in Montgomery County ‘is no different than some kind of mass-casualty event in any other form,’ labeling it a ‘medical event.’

‘It needs to be recognized that way to bring some federal assets to help us,’ he added.

Fentanyl, which is traditionally used medically in palliative care and as a potent painkiller, has seen an increase in recreational use in recent years.

The drug has been overrunning cities throughout America, including Dayton, Ohio — the county seat of Montgomery County — due largely to trafficking by Mexican cartels.

Opioid overdoses now result in more deaths in Americans under the age of 50 than than car crashes, gun deaths and the AIDS virus claimed at their peaks, says NBC News.

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