XENIA — Drug overdoses in Greene County doubled in a recent 24-hour span, resulting in 10 emergency room visits.
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) alerted Greene County Public Health (GCPH) officials of the significant increase in drug overdoses from 12 a.m. April 4 to 12 a.m. April 5.
It appears the spike was not contained to one county, though. GCPH has a surveillance system of emergency rooms in the region, used for purposes like disease outbreak alerts. Drug-related alerts were issued for counties along I-74, including Butler, Montgomery, and Clark.
“That suggests a bad batch of fentanyl-laced heroin was distributed,” said Don Brannen, PhD, community epidemiologist for GCPH.
According to Brannen, five of the county’s recent overdoses were in the Fairborn area, four in Beavercreek, and one in Xenia. Eight males and two females were involved, ages 21-40.
Noting the ages, Brannen said, “This is hitting people who otherwise had productive lives and are now effected by this epidemic.”
The last time Greene County experienced a comparable 24-hour spike was Feb. 9, Brannen said, which recorded 16 county emergency room visits related to illicit drug use, most opioid or fentanyl-related.
The average drug overdose cases local emergency rooms handle per day are four to five.
Health officials think one cause of the increase in opioid overdoses is illicit fentanyl, which is 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin and is mixed with heroin to make supplies more profitable.
“The addition of even a small amount of fentanyl to a batch of heroin increases the deadliness significantly,” GCPH officials said in a release. “The majority of fentanyl reported by law enforcement in drug seizures results from illegally produced and trafficked fentanyl, not diverted prescription fentany.”
According to Brannen, Jan. 8 to Feb. 8 saw eight confirmed overdose-related deaths in the county.
But, not all opioid overdoses are fatal. GCPH reminds individuals who are using to not use alone. The organization also encourages friends and family of users to carry naloxone (Narcan) and to call 9-1-1 immediately during suspected overdoses. The overdose-reversal medication can be obtained through Greene County’s Project DAWN Program.
“They save lives,” Brannen said. “One dose of medication has the potential to bring a person back … Literally they can be not breathing and they come back from death and are able to walk to the ambulance.”
According to the ODH website, the 2016-17 state budget includes $1 million for first responders to obtain naloxone through local health departments.
GCPH supplies the police forces in Xenia, Beavercreek and Fairborn with naloxone, while hospitals and EMS have their own. According to Brannen, GCPH sent its last bit of its nalaxone supply to Fairborn earlier in the week. ODH arranged an emergency supply of 20 additional kits to be sent to the organization by the end of the week.
“That shows that this is a great collaboration between agencies,” he said.
Reach Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498.