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Hamilton County Heroin Coalition issues alert after weekend overdose spike

Posted: 4:51 PM, May 20, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-20 17:49:25-04
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CINCINNATI — Hamilton County saw a spike on overdoses over the weekend, prompting the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition to issue an alert.

Following a documented spike in overdose deaths in Columbus, Hamilton County agencies began looking into numbers within Cincinnati, revealing the spike was not just limited to the state capital.

Although overdoses in general are still down from record highs in 2017, the weekend saw a spike of 15 people hospitalized within 24 hours for apparent overdoses; seven of these are being suspected as overdose deaths.

"Saturday we started noticing overdose numbers a little bit higher than what they've been in the past year," said Tom Synan, police chief of Newtown Police and a member of the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition. "They're still down from 2017, but they're up from some of the typical numbers we've been seeing."

The weekend's double digit overdoses are an anomaly for a year that has, so far, seen fewer overdoses than previous years.

But Synan said he thinks there's a clear reason the weekend saw such a spike: weather.

"In the winter, we generally see a dip, and in the summertime, springtime, we see those numbers go up again," he said. "People go out more, there's more activity, people move around more."

The specific causes of each apparent overdose are still being determined by the Hamilton County coroner, but Synan expects to hear that fentanyl played a significant role.

"We can't say definitively it's X-Y-Z that caused it, but when we're talking about a spike or anything since about 2015 to 2016, we can pretty much suspect fentanyl is involved," he said.

After 15 apparent overdoses within 24 hours, and 7 apparent overdose-related deaths, the Heroin Coalition, Hamilton County Public Health and the Cincinnati Health Department released a formal alert.

While 2017 has been the significant year against which to measure overdose spikes -- with 72,000 Americans dying nationwide -- the double digit overdose statistics from the weekend are concerning. A dip in overdoses in 2018 could possibly be attributed to Narcan hitting the streets in greater numbers, but any spikes in 2019 concern Synan, because of the influence of fentanyl.

"The problem with fentanyl is that it's so immediate, and its death is potentially so immediate that we're constantly in this emergency mode in the front end, and it delays us in the back end," said Synan.

Close communication with other regions, like Columbus, has helped officials react to spikes and other issues in the battle against opioids, and Synan said this is just the beginning. The goal is to continue speaking with other agencies throughout Ohio, and eventually nation-wide, to solve the epidemic.