Heroin and its analogs are still stealing the lives of addicts in Lorain County.
But there’s good news — overdose deaths are on the decline.
Last year, county coroner Stephen Evans watched a record-breaking 132 bodies come into his office. If “things keep going well,” he predicts we’re on pace to hit 80 total overdose deaths in 2018 — a 40 percent decline.
Doctors are prescribing fewer painkillers, users and dealers are being more careful, police have arrested a number of people, and the county’s drug task force is hard at work, Evans said.
The optimistic outlook doesn’t mean the opioid epidemic is over, though.
Eighty deaths is still six times higher than the 12.5 per year that was the norm from 2000 to 2009, Evans stressed: “We’re better than we were, but we’re not anywhere where we need to be,” he said.
As of mid-June, overdose deaths were in the 30s, with a handful of outstanding toxicology reports. Evans said the exact number could fluctuate over the next few months.
“It’s definitely less than last year at this point. But the problem is that all of a sudden some bad drugs (could) get on the street and we get 10 to 12 overdoses in a weekend,” he said.
Fentanyl, a drug 10 times stronger than heroin, was the number one killer last year. It’s easier and cheaper to make, so dealers mix it or sell it pure, and a good buzz turns into an immediate overdose.
There isn’t a cure-all tactic for helping addicts and officers can’t arrest their way out of this epidemic.
Evans said there needs to be a greater focus on education to stop people from starting drugs, and a way to seek rehabilitation if addiction takes hold.
“It’s not something the police or the courts do. It’s something the public has to do,” Evans said.
Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.