NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Lorain County Coroner Dr. Stephen Evans cringes when people equate overdose deaths with the thinning of the herd.
“This is your herd, people,” he said to the Rotary Club of North Ridgeville on Aug. 25.
Evans said three to four people die from an opiate overdose in Lorain County each week. Worldwide, the number is 600 people a day.
Demographically, the deaths are white, middle-class people who live in the suburbs. For every one person who dies, 130 are addicted to drugs and 800 people are abusing drugs.
Evans pointed out that 80 percent of kids start abusing opiates at home, where they find them in the family medicine cabinet.
He is quick to blame big pharmaceutical companies. Beginning in the 1990s, drug companies pushed doctors and hospitals to prescribe opiate-based drugs they were manufacturing, according to Evans.
“Government realized they let the genie out of the bottle and shut down (the practice),” he said. “But not before people were addicted. They couldn’t get the drugs from doctors, so they turned to heroin.”
Evans and his team reached out to state Sen. Gayle Manning of North Ridgeville for help to try to stem some of the deaths. Ohio Senate Bill 57, sponsored by Manning and passed in 2013, established a pilot program for first responders to carry the drug naloxone, which can instantly reverse the effects of a drug overdose.
“In that pilot year, we (first responders) saved 60 lives,” Evans said. “Since the bill passed, over 300 lives have been saved.”
Most of the addicts are people who were following doctors’ orders or kids who made a stupid mistake, according to Evans.
“These are kids with scholarships,” he said. “These are good kids.”
Lorain County relies on grants to obtain and distribute naloxone for free, and “it doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything,” Evans said.
He said the keys to overcoming the epidemic are threefold: educate, advocate and clean up.