Hamilton County drug overdoses spike, prompting public health alert

CINCINNATI -- Drug overdoses spiked in Hamilton County late last week, prompting officials to issue a public health alert Sunday.

County emergency rooms had 18 visits for overdoses from 6 a.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday. Emergency dispatchers also had 20 calls for overdoses from Thursday to Friday morning.

Both are higher than health officials would expect, and they say it's the biggest increase since the end of September.

If past experience is any indication, a change in the mix of illicit street drugs is behind the spike. Mixtures could include heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil and other synthetic opioids. Synthetics such as fentanyl and carfentanil are many times more powerful than heroin, increasing the risk for users to accidentally overdose.

Hamilton County Public Health, the Cincinnati Health Department and Hamilton County Heroin Coalition advised people should:

  • have and use personal protective equipment;
  • avoid street drugs alone; and
  • carry overdose reversal drug naloxone and be ready to use multiple doses.

City and county officials have struggled to keep up with the opioid epidemic, particularly during a significant spike during summer 2016. That led the city to create a public portal of overdoses from emergency response data.

It shows where and when overdoses happen in Cincinnati:

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