DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Drug overdose deaths for 2019 are out-pacing 2018, according to Montgomery County Coroner Kent Harshbarger.
As of May 16, the coroner’s office counted 102 deaths for 2019 vs. 105 through the end of May in 2018. Harshbarger said he expected the 2019 numbers through May to be higher than 2018 once the month is finished and official reports are finished for March, April and May.
“We’re only showing 18 (for May) but that’s as of the middle of the month,” Harshbarger said. “I’m assuming we’ll be in the upper 20s, which would put us as high as 120 to 125 for the year. If you add in June, we could potentially be near 150, that would put us on track for 300 overdose deaths this year; if not higher; if the trends continue.”
Harshbarger said most overdose cases he’s seen are a mix of drugs in the systems of the deceased, with fentanyl being the cause of death. The drug is sometimes combined with methamphetamine or cocaine, or on some occasions, all three.
Overdose numbers are still below the numbers in 2017 with 566 for the year and 81 deaths in May 2017 alone.
The overdose surge in May 2017 was due to carefentanil, a fentanyl analog exponentially more powerful than heroin.
“A lot of the analogs are gone,” Harshbarger said. “Most are illicit fentanyl, not the prescription. We hardly ever see heroin, and if we do it’s mixed with fentanyl, cocaine or meth.”
Harshbarger said any overdose death is alarming, but said community’s work in addressing the opioid crisis over the last several years has given people more options for help.
“It’s certainly not as bad as 2017,” Harshbarger said. “There are more programs and more options for people in the community in need of help.”