The number of overdose deaths in Montgomery County spiked in recent weeks, but health officials said they hope it’s only a short-term increase.
Between March 22 and April 5 there were 17 overdose deaths in Montgomery County. That’s up from 11 deaths in the three weeks prior, from March 1 to March 21.
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Through last Thursday, the most recent numbers available, there have been 72 overdose deaths this year in Montgomery County. In 2018, the number of Montgomery County OD deaths fell from a record 566 in 2017 to 289.
Dan Suffoletto, spokesman for Public Health Dayton and Montgomery County, said Monday the overarching message is one of awareness and continued education.
Over the past year, the number of deaths has slowly decreased and local leaders are hoping that trend is not disrupted.
“We just want to alert the people that there has been an increase,” he said. “We want to make sure that short-term spike doesn’t escalate into anything long-term. We want to remind people about the situation.”
The number of overdose deaths continued to decline in January and February this year but were above last year’s total for March, according to preliminary numbers from the coroner’s office.
“The increase in overdose deaths is avoidable, but only if we all act together to continue to solve the problem of addiction. If you know anyone who uses illegal drugs, please share this information with them and carry Naloxone,” Dr. Kent Harshbarger, Montgomery County coroner, said in a statement, referring to a powerful anti-overdose medication.
Harshbarger’s office is continuing to see the opioid fentanyl mixed into various street drugs. And they’ve now seen cases where the Naloxone-resistant drug Xylazine is also mixed in.
The problem occurs across Ohio.
According to the Akron Beacon-Journal, for the weekend of April 5-7, 23 residents sought emergency room help after overdosing — 13 people on April 6 alone, the newspaper reported.
“It caused us to raise an eyebrow,” Jerry Craig, executive director of the county’s Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board, told the Beacon-Journal.
Montgomery County health officials are reminding the public that any illegal drug could contain fentanyl, which increases the chance for an overdose.
“We want to emphasize that there is no safe way to illegal drugs,” Suffoletto said.
The Community Overdose Action Team encourages family and friends of persons at risk of a drug overdose to carry Naloxone. The Dayton area’s Project Dawn offers free weekly Naloxone overdose education and distribution every Wednesday at noon at 601 Edwin C. Moses Blvd, Door F, the CrisisCare entrance, in Dayton. Call (937) 734-8333 to schedule a group training session.
Ohio has been among the top five states with the highest rates of opioid-related overdose deaths, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
In 2016, there were 3,613 opioid-related overdose deaths in Ohio — a rate of 32.9 deaths per 100,000 persons and more than double the national rate of 13.3 deaths per 100,000.
Tips on reducing overdose risk
While there is no safe way to use illegal drugs, health officials recommend these steps to help reduce the risk of death:
• In the event of an overdose call 911 immediately.
• Have overdose-reversing drug naloxone available, and someone who can administer it, in case of an overdose.
• Call Samaritan Crisis Care 24/7 at 224-4646 for crisis, treatment and referral.
• Do not use drugs containing fentanyl.
• Do not use drugs alone.
• Do not share needles.