The Sudden Rise of Opioid Deaths in Cleveland
The Cleveland area set a record in August for the most opioid related deaths in its history. 52 people died in the month, and the area is headed for a record breaking year of over 500 overdose deaths, according to Cleveland.com. There were seven overdoses in just one day in Cleveland in late September of this year.
This is part of a nationwide trend. There are about 30 opioid related deaths in the US every day, nearly four times the frequency of opioid overdose deaths since 2002. Heroin and prescription pain medications both play a part in this alarming trend, which is now officially a public health crisis.
There are diverse reasons for this dramatic increase in deaths over the past decade and a half. For instance, cartels seizing on the opportunity to supply addicts left high and dry by the crackdown on pill mills are supplying very potent and cheap heroin to the US market. Heroin in Akron and Cincinnati, sourced from the cartels, has recently been found to contain the animal tranquilizer carfentanil. This deadly combo of heroin and carfentanil was responsible for over 170 overdoses in Cincinnati during the course of one recent week.
Opioids enter the brain and bind to opioid receptors, where they dull pain and cause sedation. But they also can cause respiratory depression. An addict typically takes much higher doses than those who use pain medications as directed, which carries a far greater risk of harmful or fatal reactions. A fatal overdose causes breathing to cease while the victim is “nodding,” or in a semi-conscious state. Death can come within minutes of a large dose of opioid pain medication or heroin. Heroin also carries the danger of being adulterated with other toxic drugs.
The disturbing increase in opioid overdoses, many of which result in death, is not limited to Cleveland and shows no sign of leveling out any time soon. No longer mostly confined to urban areas, the opioid epidemic has spread to the suburbs and rural parts of the country. America must now deal with this public health crisis.