Investigators trying to determine what's causing recent surge of heroin overdoses in Hamilton

HAMILTON, Ohio -- A disturbing trend is emerging in Hamilton that has officials worried about public health.

In the last two weeks, the Hamilton Fire Department has responded to 18 heroin overdoses -- five of which were Tuesday night.

Those five were revived -- but in the last two weeks, six of the 18 weren't so lucky. This year, the Butler County Coroner’s Office reports 20 people have died from suspected heroin overdoes. In Ohio, state officials say drug overdoses from heroin increased 25 percent between 2008 and 2009, and are continuing to rise.

Now Hamilton investigators are trying to track down what's behind this recent surge.

Jennifer Mason, an EMS coordinator, said the heroin that’s currently spreading in Hamilton is much more potent than it has been in the past because it is being diluted with Fentanyl, a powerful painkiller.

"What used to take us 2 mg of a drug called Narcan -- Narcan reverses the effects of opiates -- is now taking us six, eight, 10 or 12 mgs."

Detective Rich Burkhardt said the drug of choice in Hamilton used to be crack, but things have changed -- because heroin is cheaper.

"It's usually like $40 and then you have your heroin. And now it's either heroin pills or marijuana heroin. That's the two big ones now," Burkhardt said.

Whatever is driving this trend, there is help offered. Workers at Sojourner Recovery Services say the key to successful treatment is the willingness to change.

"You have to want to change,” said Sojourner Recovery Services CEO Scott Gehring. “You have to want a better choice and I think that part of the treatment process is really giving people the tools they need to see their life in a better situation and a better place."

Gehring says making Hamilton a better place for those struggling with addiction is what his organization is trying to do.

"From what I understand, the first time you utilize it, it's the most incredible high that you have and then you're constantly chasing it, so you're pushing that card to use more and more and more," he said.

The Butler County Coroner's Office is continuing its investigation into the recent boom of heroin use.

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