OD deaths lowest of year, but ‘no possible way … the addicts are gone.’

Montgomery County Coroner Kent Harshbarger at the door of the morgue, 361 West Third St. Dayton. JIM WITMER / STAFF
Montgomery County Coroner Kent Harshbarger at the door of the morgue, 361 West Third St. Dayton. JIM WITMER / STAFF

Overdose deaths in Montgomery County were so frequent in the early months of 2017 that the coroner prepared to store bodies off-site and health officials braced for up to 800 dead this year.

But since May, when 80 people died, the number of overdose deaths has decreased dramatically, falling to 51 in June to 38 in July — the lowest monthly total since last November.

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“Right now I hope that this trend continues, that our rate of death is going down,” said Dr. Kent Harshbarger, Montgomery County coroner. “But there’s still dangerous products that are on our streets, and using any of the products you’re buying is a crapshoot of what you’re getting. It could be carfentanil or one of those analogs and it might be your last dose.”

Though trending down, the lower July number remains well above the monthly average of 29 deaths last year when 349 people died — then an annual record. Until this June.

Online Graphing

Harshbarger cited multiple factors for the decrease in deaths the past few months: large local opioid seizures that curbed supply, stepped up community efforts focused on education and treatment, and federal interdiction of shadowy internet dope sellers.

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“The DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) shut down a dark web marketplace called AlphaBay on July 13, and then they also shut down a place called HANSA Market. It’s direct to consumer drug sales,” he said. “There’s no possible way from then until now the addicts are gone.”