Hamilton County on pace to have more overdose deaths this year than 2016

CINCINNATI -- If Hamilton County continues at its current rate, more people will have died from drug overdoses this year than last year.

The numbers are more evidence that the region's opioid epidemic isn't letting up, County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco said Monday.

"It's going to take a nationwide response to find some solutions to this," she said.

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Sammarco met with U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, at her office in Corryville to talk about the epidemic and issue another dire warning about synthetic opioids now infiltrating more and more street drugs.

So far this year, there have been nearly 300 overdose deaths. In all of last year, there were 403 deaths, and 342 of them involved at least one kind of opiate.

Sammarco's office has found fentanyl and carfentanil, two opioids shipped to the United States from overseas, in cocaine and marijuana, she said. The synthetic drugs are many times more powerful than heroin.

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Federal agents arrested a man and woman last week, alleging they'd smuggled fentanyl into the Tri-State and then mailed it to customers. Portman said the amount of fentanyl they're accused of having -- 3.5 kilograms -- could kill "a million people."

"You're playing Russian roulette with your life every time you use a  street drug, because you don't know what's in it," he said.

 

Portman has worked on legislation to bring more federal resources to the opioid epidemic, and it's just now being implemented.

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Ohio is among the top five states in the country for drug overdose deaths, he said, and Hamilton County has a higher rate than any other county.

 

When he met with Cleveland officials Friday, he said they had the same story: The problem is getting worse, not better.

"It's more and more dangerous, it's deadly, and the message needs to be out there on the street, and we need to do a better job on prevention and education at every level," Portman said.

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