From 2014-2017, there were 88 confirmed drug overdose deaths in Grant County, with heroin becoming increasingly more fatal over the same period.
Grant County Deputy Coroner Stephen Dorsey compiled and released a report this past week of confirmed drug overdose deaths in the county.
Dorsey’s report factored in 88 total overdose deaths in the four-year period, and then broke down the data further into categories such as the primary drug used to cause the death, sex, race and average ages.
Although the topic of drug overdoses and deaths is not a new one, officials have become increasingly concerned over the frequency in which they happen – even in smaller communities.
“I’ve been curious as to how bad the epidemic was, so I started putting these reports together,” Dorsey said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid overdoses kill almost five people every hour in the United States.
“My study indicates the primary drug used to cause an individual’s death while noting that a secondary drug or multiple drugs may have contributed,” Dorsey said.
The reports show heroin and Fentanyl being seven to eight times more fatal in 2017, as compared to 2014. Dorsey attributes this fact to a combination of the two drugs becoming increasingly mixed together, as well as users “chasing the dragon” – a phrase meaning the user continually attempts to feel the effects of drugs more prominently than the previous time.
“The danger today is the potency of what’s on the streets is higher than last year,” Dorsey said. “An an addict, you don’t know what the heroin is cut with, but it’s extremely popular to cut it with Fentanyl.”
Detective Sergeant Josh Zigler, of the Grant County Joint Effort Against Narcotics Team, said a major contributor to the surge in heroin and Fentanyl overdoses is due to to prescription legislation.
“Marion General Hospital tightened down prescription guidelines, which was great and really effective, but people started turning to heroin to get high, and that (heroin) is the main thing we do now” Zigler said. “It’s similar to a few years ago when meth labs were a massive problem and then Sudafed sales were highly monitored.”
Zigler also said, although meth labs are found less frequently, crystal meth has been brought in from outside the area, replacing the home-cooked version of meth.
Dorsey intends on making the reports a more frequent occurrence, and said he will begin releasing quarterly reports beginning April 2018.