DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – While the COVID-19 outbreak has killed thousands across the country and shut down states for months, a surge of opioid overdoses has happened both locally and nationally.
Major Brian Johns of the Dayton Police Department said overdoses are up 60 percent in the city since the issuance of lockdown orders in March.
“As far as non-fatal overdoses, when the stay-at-home order hit they went from 46 in March to 73 in April, to 118 in May,” Johns told WDTN.com. “Even nationally we are seeing a 62-percent increase according to national data tracking.”
Fatal overdoses have also climbed: Johns said there were 15 in the city during March, 11 in April and 17 in May.
Overdose deaths in Montgomery County are in up five of the first six months in 2020. The numbers are out-pacing overdose deaths in 2019 but are still far below the numbers in 2017 when the epidemic was at its peak.
Montgomery County Coroner Kent Harshbarger said a factor in many of the recent overdoses has been a resurgence of fentanyl analogues.
Harshbarger said the usual concoction they see in overdoses is a mix of fentanyl, methamphetamine and sometimes cocaine. But now victims have been found with acetyl fentanyl and isovaleryl fentanyl in their systems as well, two powerful analogues that were responsible for many of the deaths during the 2017 peak of the epidemic.
“These were some of the things we would see in 2017 from time to time,” Harshbarger said. “I don’t know if there’s been increased use, but there’s a powerful product back on the streets again that we haven’t seen as regularly.”
Harshbarger said counties across the state are also reporting increases in fatal and non-fatal overdoses, as well as the resurgence of the analogues. Counties are also testing for a new designer opioid called isonitazene, which has been responsible for deaths in Illinois and Canada.
“It’s a new opioid-like substance,” Harshbarger said. “We are testing for it but we have not seen it come through the crime lab.”
Stay at home order a factor
Johns said the increase in overdoses in Dayton coincided with stay-at-home orders being issued. He thinks that may not be a coincidence.
“We have folks who are struggling with addiction,” Johns said. “They probably went to meetings and many of those stopped. These are just my thoughts, but you think the fear we experienced with COVID-19, it’s a scary time with a lot of uncertainty. Then you’re isolated at home, I think that could possibly be why we saw an increase in overdoses.”
Dayton police are continuing to use addiction resource officers to follow up on overdose calls. He said the department has performed 211 follow-ups with people who overdosed and connected another 47 to treatment centers.
Enforcement wise, Johns said the department always works to determine who may have sold the drug to the overdose victim.
“We do our best to find out where that drug came from,” Johns said. “It’s very difficult especially if you have a fatality and there is no evidence to follow up on. Or if we have someone who is uncooperative, which is commonly the case.”
Updated statistics for Montgomery County and localities can be found on the Montgomery County Coroner’s website.