If the number of deaths caused by substance abuse across the United States was attributed to an infectious disease, we would be in a panic. People are quite literally falling in the streets due to accidental overdose. Lives and families are torn apart by preventable tragedy, and yet drug abuse remains the giant, deadly elephant in the room. This unwillingness to face the epidemic face on as we would other is costing lives at an alarming rate while we debate if this public health and safety crisis is worthy of our attention.
Ohio alone should be evidence of just how dire the substance abuse epidemic has become. Morgues can’t keep up with the number of deaths caused by the opioid abuse epidemic. Heroin, Fentanyl, and prescription drugs keep the Stark County coroner’s office filled with more bodies continuously filtering in. The backlog has gotten so dire that one investigator enlisted the help of the Ohio Emergency Management Agency to expand room- with a cold storage trailer.
In 2016, Stark County saw a 20 percent increase in traffic caused by the opioid abuse epidemic ravishing the country. Now, only three months into 2017, the problem has persisted to the point of needing additional storage.
Rick Walters, an investigator with the Stark County coroner’s office, says even after a 40 year career he has never seen drug-related deaths reach these heights.
“I’ve been involved in public safety for 40 some years; I remember the drug problem we had in the late 60s and early 70s when I joined the department. The fatality numbers are nothing even close to this.”
Fentanyl has greatly contributed to the drug-related overdose epidemic in Stark County and across the U.S. The synthetic opioid- which is up to 100 times stronger than morphine- is often used to doctor other illicit substances, often with fatal consequences. While the DEA has taken action in stymieing drug trafficking between the U.S. and China- the primary source of street Fentanyl supplies- greater action must be taken here at home.