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Hamilton County Coroner on overdose deaths: 'It's not really getting any better'

Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco said counterfeit pills could "explode into this huge epidemic problem if we don't try and get to these young people"
Hamilton County Coroner Drug Overdose Press Conference.png
Posted at 3:44 PM, May 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-13 18:52:52-04

CINCINNATI — One of Hamilton County’s top doctors is sending out an alert to parents this weekend in the wake of two college students dying after a drug-related incident.

Hamilton County Coroner, Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, called a press conference Friday to inform parents about fentanyl-laced pills that look like Adderall medication.

Last week, two OSU students died due to overdose, and investigators are waiting for a lab to confirm it was Adderall laced with fentanyl that killed them.

“I think we need to really start paying attention to these counterfeit pills,” Dr. Sammarco said. “This is not a minor thing. This could explode into this huge epidemic problem if we don’t try and get to these young people and get the right message to them.”

Joe Reder, resident agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration's Cincinnati District Office, said, “The pill presses are being bought on the dark web, shipped into the United States. People are setting up labs in Cincinnati, and they're churning out thousands of pills at a time."

He said four out of 10 counterfeit pills seized across the nation are laced with lethal levels of fentanyl.

“We really want to stress parents talking to their kids because an innocent pill when you're studying for an exam could end up being the last thing that you do,” Reder said. “In the wake of the OSU tragedy, obviously, we want to stress this because we’ve got amazing universities here in Cincinnati, and we don't want to see it happen here.”

"If you can get other people to engage your kids in that way, to talk to them, their teachers, their coaches, whatever, do it," Dr. Sammarco said.

The pair said if you’re set on taking pills, get Narcan from a pharmacy first.

“I hate to say that we're talking about having Narcan available at high schools and colleges, but the reality is, if we can get there and save lives, we're doing something good,” Dr. Sammarco said. “But, prevention, prevention, prevention, prevention.”

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