Starting on July 5th, there were 17 reports of heroin overdoses in Akron, Ohio, and one death, according to newsnet5.com. Akron’s Mayor said the city has “moved into a public health crisis.” Akron’s Police Chief said investigators think heroin was laced with fentanyl in some of the 17 overdoses that were reported Tuesday and they’re calling it a “bad batch” of heroin.
Narcan, which is typically used to reverse the effects of narcotics, was used in all 17 overdose cases. Officials are not sure whether all 17 heroin overdose patients used the same batch. However, they did say it was more resistant to Narcan. In one of those cases, police said, a mother in her 40’s was using drugs with two of her daughters inside a Copley Road apartment when all three of them, along with a friend, overdosed. Officials said they survived. The Akron Fire Department has responded to 323 suspected heroin overdoses this year.
What do the national trends for heroin use look like?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, heroin use has increased across the U.S. among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels. Some of the greatest increases occurred in demographic groups with historically low rates of heroin use: women, the privately insured, and people with higher incomes. Not only are people using heroin, they are also abusing multiple other substances, especially cocaine and prescription opioid painkillers. As heroin use has increased, so have heroin-related overdose deaths. Their statistics include:
- Heroin use more than doubled among young adults ages 18–25 in the past decade.
- More than 9 in 10 people who used heroin also used at least one other drug.
- 45% of people who used heroin were also addicted to prescription opioid painkillers.
Who is most at risk of heroin addiction?
- People who are addicted to prescription opioid painkillers
- People who are addicted to cocaine
- People without insurance or enrolled in Medicaid
- Non-Hispanic whites
- People who are addicted to marijuana and alcohol
- People living in a large metropolitan area
- 18 to 25 year olds
Sources: National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 2011–2013 and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
What can be done?
Everyone can participate in helping stem this epidemic, from the Federal Government to the states, to physicians to individuals. Resources include:
- Increasing access to substance abuse programs
- Increasing use and availability of Naloxone (Narcan)
- Supporting research and development of pain relievers that are less addictive
- Following new CDC prescribing guidelines for opiates and recommending alternatives
- Becoming educated about the harmful effects of opiates, prescription pain medications and other drugs
- Learning how to recognize and respond to an opioid overdose