Clark County drug overdoses double in 24-hour spike

Clark County has seen a spike in opioid-related drug overdoses this week — double what’s typically seen — in just a 24-hour period, according to local health leaders.

The Clark County Combined Health District sent an alert to other county agencies that the emergency department at Springfield Regional Medical Center has seen at least 13 opioid-related drug overdoses between 3 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Four deaths this week are suspected to be drug-related, Clark County Coroner Dr. Richard Marsh said, but that’s not confirmed yet.

The county typically averages about five to six drug overdoses per day, according to the health district.

The Ohio Department of Health alerted the district about the spike on Wednesday morning, Clark County Health Commissioner Charles Patterson said.

The county health district believes a batch of illicit, synthetic fentanyl is out on the street in place of heroin, Patterson said.

“It’s probably what’s causing these additional overdoses over these last 24 hours,” he said.

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Local agencies are on high alert and preparing staff members, including public safety, Springfield Regional Medical Center, and local mental health and addiction services.

“We need the word out there very quickly to try to save lives to make sure that people are watching very carefully with the drugs that are on the street today,” Patterson said.

The majority of drug deaths in Clark County since 2015 have involved illicit fentanyl, Marsh said, which is 50 times more powerful than heroin.

“There are all kinds of labs producing it now and it’s out there,” Marsh said. “Just a little bit is enough to be fatal.”

Last year the county saw 68 overdose deaths through November, according to health district statistics. Since that time, there have been 19 more deaths that may be drug-related, he said.

In 2015, there were 73 overdose drug deaths in Clark County, Marsh said. Drug abuse is a major disease that’s having a great impact on Clark County and other areas throughout the country.

“I honestly wish I had an answer (to stop the epidemic), but I don’t,” he said. “It’s out there and it’s causing great devastation to families and our whole community. If I had an answer, it would be wonderful.”

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At the emergency department at the hospital, Narcan was used in every overdose, Patterson said.

Earlier this month, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed into law a measure to combat the heroin and opiate addiction in Ohio, including requiring pharmacy technicians to register with the Ohio Board of Pharmacy and limits opiate subscriptions.

Despite investing almost $1 billion a year to fight drug abuse and addiction, accidental overdoses claimed 3,050 lives in Ohio in 2015, up 20.5 percent over 2014.

Parents must educate their children not to use these types of drugs, Patterson said. The district also wants families to keep an eye on relatives who may be users, he said.

“It’s not a drug to mess with,” Patterson said. “Once you’re hooked, it’s very difficult to get off. There aren’t too many paths once you’ve been hooked on the drug.”

By the numbers

13: The number of overdoses treated at the emergency room in Springfield between 3 p.m. Tuesday and 3 p.m. Wednesday.

68: The number of drug deaths in Clark County through November 2016.

73: The number of drug overdose deaths in Clark County in 2015.

Staying with the story

The Springfield News-Sun has written extensively about the heroin epidemic in Clark County, including recent stories on the state’s effort to curb heroin and opiate addiction.

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