One Ohio county had an “unusually high number” of overdose deaths in a little over a day, the county’s coroner said.
“As of about 10 am this morning we have had 10 people die of overdoses in about 26 hours,” Franklin County Coroner Dr. Anahi Ortiz said on Facebook on Sunday.
Ortiz told CNN on Monday that in a normal 24-hour period, Franklin typically has one or two overdoses.
“I urge friends and family of those who use to make sure you are armed with naloxone,” Ortiz said on Facebook. “Those who use should also test before using with fentanyl testing strips.”
Fentanyl can be mixed with cocaine and methamphetamine to create a deadly combination, the coroner said. The deaths are likely from fentanyl, but toxicology results are pending, Ortiz said. The full coroner report could take 10 weeks, she said.
The last peak of overdoses that the coroner’s office posted about was in August 12, when six people died in less than 24 hours.
“The majority of overdose deaths continue to be fentanyl related,” the coroner said in the statement.
The most common cause of death in Franklin County is fentanyl overdose, Ortiz said. The typical overdose victim in the county is a white male between 30 and 40 years old, though the first six months of 2019 have seen an increase in African Americans dying from fentanyl, she said.
The first six months of 2019 saw 257 overdoses, 75% of which were fentanyl overdoses.
“I still see these as tragedies,” Ortiz told CNN. “These are preventable deaths.”
Ohio is not alone. The country has been grappling with an opioid epidemic for the past years. In 2017, about 1.7 million Americans suffered from substance abuse disorders that related to prescription opioid pain relievers.
That same year, the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a national alert that said “drug incidents and overdoses related to fentanyl are occurring at an alarming rate.”
Opioids — drugs that replicate the pain-reducing properties of opium — include both legal painkillers like morphine and illegal drugs like heroin or illicitly made fentanyl.
Fentanyl is powerful and deadly.
It’s 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin. Just 0.25 milligrams can kill.
In 2017, Franklin County set up a 3-year Opiate Action Plan to combat the opiate epidemic in the state.
The plan included all kinds of partners, such as “first responders, law enforcement, mental health clinicians, consumers, family members and faith community members,” Franklin County Board of Commissioners President John O’Grady had said.
Some of the plan’s 2019 goals included hospitals working together to provide other pain management options, expand prevention programs for up to college-age youth and have the county’s sheriff’s office and county court system to work together to provide resources to people released from jails who have opiate use disorders.