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Drug overdoses on the rise in Summit

Akron Beacon Journal - 12/23/2019

Overdoses are on the rise again in Summit County.

At the end of October, Summit County had already recorded 90 more overdoses than during the first 11 months of 2018, according to a report released Friday by Summit County Public Health.

That's about a 7% increase.

Emergency rooms treated about 1,437 overdoses in Summit County through Nov. 30.

"Overdoses have remained fairly volatile over the past several months; rising and falling sharply several times, though always averaging between three and six overdoses per day," the report said.

About 10% of those who sought emergency room help -- 143 people -- visited the ER more than once for drug overdoses this year, the report said. Of those, one person overdosed eight times in 2019. Seven others overdosed at least five times.

Akron, the population hub of the county, accounted for about 59% of Summit County overdoses, with suburbs and townships making up the rest.

Two ZIP codes -- 44203, which includes large parts of Barberton and Norton, and 44305, which covers Akron's Middlebury and Goodyear Heights neighborhoods -- accounted for 20% of all overdoses in the county when combined in 2019.

The 44305 ZIP code also had the largest increase of overdoses, 61 more so far in 2019 than at the same time last year, the report said.

The biggest decrease happened in neighboring ZIP code 44312, Akron's Ellet neighborhood, and Lakemore, where there were 21 fewer overdoses this year compared to 2018.

Deaths from overdoses in Summit County appear to be slightly higher this year, too. So far in 2019, Summit County has reported 126 overdose deaths compared to 125 in all of 2018.

Those numbers are far below the peak of Summit County's ongoing drug crisis. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, 192, 307 and 247 Summit County residents died from overdoses.

The drugs involved in overdose deaths have changed over time, the report said.

Heroin peaked here in 2013, cited on 40% of OD death certificates that year compared to only 5% by 2018. Prescription opiates and fentanyl peaked in 2016, and carfentanil and cocaine peaked in 2017, the report said.

"The one drug that has shown a sustained increase as a percentage of the total since 2014 is methamphetamine," the report said.

Methamphetamine this year was mentioned in 30% of all drug-poisoning deaths. That's "a higher rate than heroin and equal to carfentanil, which is rising again after a one-year decline," the report said.

Street drug dealers figured out they could make much more money selling carfenatil than heroin or other drugs.

Carfentanil is a synthetic opiate used by zoos as an elephant tranquilizer.

A fleck of carfentanil the size of a grain of sand can kill a human.

Reach Amanda Garrett at 330-996-3725 or agarrett@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @agarrettABJ.

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