By: Marcus J. Hopkins, Blogger
Yet again, Ohio’s drug users and first responders are being overwhelmed by heroin laced with a stronger opioid drugs. Seven fatal overdoses occurred in one day in Cleveland on Saturday, September 24 (Kaufman, 2016). The following Tuesday saw 27 heroin overdoses in a 24-hour period in Columbus, including two fatalities. One patient had been released from the hospital after being treated for an earlier overdose just thirty minutes prior to being picked up for a second overdose; there were two such overdose victims that first responders treated twice in the same day for being overdosed (Sullivan, 2016).
With the introduction of the powerful opioids, fentanyl and carfentanil, not only those who are addicted to prescription opioid drugs and heroin face increased risks; first responders, emergency personnel, and law enforcement officers also face increased risks of being sickened by exposure to these drugs during raids and rescue situations. So great are the risks to first responders and SWAT teams that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) released a warning about the dangers of handling these powerful opioids without extreme caution (Jones, 2016).
All over the state of Ohio, first responders and crime labs are taxed to the breaking point responding to opioid and heroin overdoses. Jamie Landrum, a Cincinnati police officer, is quoted: “We were literally going from one heroin overdose, and then being on that one, and hearing someone come over [the radio] and say, ‘I have no more officers left,’” Landrum said. Three more people overdosed soon after that (Harper, 2016). At one overdose scene, a patient required at least four doses of Naloxone to be revived; after the fourth dose, he was still not responding.
Beyond the primary concerns of overdose is the reality that these drugs were never meant for use in humans, and therefore, has no human testing data from which to extrapolate even the most basic information: the lethal dose per kilogram of body weight, or how long carfentanil stays in someone’s system. This makes responding to overdoses more difficult.
What this means for local, state, and Federal governments is more: more overdoses, more Naloxone, more time spent on each call, and ultimately more money in areas already strapped for resources. And while there’s great outcry for more resources, there seems to be little appetite for holding the pharmaceutical companies that produce these opioids financially liable for the havoc their products have wreaked upon the populace.
At this point, penalties and criminal charges have been largely reserved for prescribing physicians and individual pharmacists; holding anyone higher up the food chain responsible for the opioid epidemic has proven difficult, as the industry is very active in combating any efforts to either curb prescribing habits or to hold anyone in the industry accountable. What we really need are a few brave politicians who are willing to forego the promises of the industry that supports their reelection campaigns, and who will do what’s best for their constituents.
Disclaimer: HEAL Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community Access National Network (CANN), but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby the author serves to promote open, honest discussion about Hepatitis-related issues and updates. Please note that the content of some of the HEAL Blogs might be graphic due to the nature of the issues being addressed in it.
- Harper, J. (2016, September 28). Deadly Opioid Overwhelms First Responders And Crime Lab in Ohio. Menlo Park, CA: Kaiser Family Foundation: Side Effects Public Media. Retrieved from: http://khn.org/news/deadly-opioid-overwhelms-first-responders-and-crime-labs-in-ohio/
- Jones, S. (2016, September 23). DEA Warns First Responders and Public About Danger of Exposure to Elephant Tranquilizer. Reston, VA: CNSNews (dot) Com. Retrieved from: http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/susan-jones/dea-warns-first-responders-and-public-about-danger-exposure-elephant
- Kaufman, E. (2016, September 25). In one day, 7 fatal drug overdoses in Cleveland area. Atlanta, GA: CNN. Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/25/health/cleveland-drug-overdose-deaths/index.html – i-F57ADCB9-5F7A-4526-8C09-B15434A49232
- Sullivan, L. (2016, September 29). Columbus hit by 27 heroin overdoses in 24-hour span. Columbus, OH: The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved from: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2016/09/28/bad-heroin-overdoses.html