The number of fatal drug overdoses in Lorain County in 2016 likely will pass 140, more than double what it had last year.
As of Saturday, there were 129 confirmed fatal overdoses in Lorain County and 12 suspected overdose deaths for which the coroner’s office was awaiting final lab results. This is a steep rise from the 63 overdose deaths Lorain County saw in 2015.
Lorain County Coroner Dr. Stephen Evans said about 80 percent to 90 percent of people who overdosed this year had a combination of drugs in their systems. He said many of the deaths involved alcohol and that at
49 deaths, cocaine or cocaine-
fentanyl overdoses also were high this year.
Many of the fatalities used heroin-fentanyl mixtures or heroin cut with other chemical analogs, Evans said, substances with super potency hundreds or even thousands of times stronger than traditional heroin.
“Most are mixed-drug overdoses involving three or four substances,” Evans said. “It’s tragic.”
Lorain County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Dennis Cavanaugh said fentanyl and heroin come into Lorain County via a variety of trafficking methods and numerous countries.
Major drug cartels are operating within the county, Cavanaugh said, many of which manufacture super-potency substances like fentanyl in labs.
“The trouble is the individuals buying this never know the concoction or what’s in it,” he said. “They think they’re buying heroin, use the quantity they’d normally use, but it’s spiked with fentanyl.”
Evans said drug addictions play a part in thefts, burglaries, robberies, fatal car crashes, suicides and murders. He said education is ultimately the key to stemming the tide of overdose deaths and drug addiction-related crimes.
“Most start drug habits through narcotic pain prescription they thought was safe,” he said. “Well it’s not safe. You can have short-term pain relief or a lifetime of addiction.”
Cavanaugh said many addicts have a $300- to $400-a-day habit, which leads them to commit crimes to support their drug use. The result is a drug problem that touches countless people across the county.
“It’s affecting everyone,” Cavanaugh said. “There’s probably not one individual that doesn’t know a friend or someone in their family who is addicted.”
Evans said law enforcement must continue to arrest suppliers and dealers to keep heroin off the streets, but he didn’t mince words when he said the war on drugs is failing, pointing to the number of people addicted and dead as proof.
“We’ve spent billions and billions of dollars on the war on drugs since the 1980s, and the drug problem is the worst it’s ever been,” he said. “They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Well, unfortunately, that’s what we’re doing.”
Contact Jon Wysochanski at 329-7123