“If you think of it as businessmen from the cartels’ standpoint you’ve got somebody hooked on cocaine, not quite the same addictive level that the opioids are,” the coroner said. “So when you sell them some cocaine you mix a little opioid in there and now they are addicted.”
The drug of choice isn’t the only thing that has changed. Mannix said most of her overdose deaths are now white men in the 38 to 39 age range. While there has been a huge problem with younger people becoming addicted — the CDC reported in 2015 heroin use by people age 18 to 25 doubled over the last decade — from what she hears from family members these people have struggled with drug addiction for a long time.
“I think we will lose that entire generation,” she said. “Those (addicts) are hard to get into treatment, the treatment is long and expensive and there’s lots of relapse and there’s lots of problems with that.”
The coroner also believes while some people got hooked on opioids years ago from pain medication that isn’t the case anymore. She said statistics show overdose deaths from pain medication is on the decline and fewer opioid medications are being prescribed, since the government crack down of “pill mills.” Plus, she said the illegal drugs are cheaper, she surmised one hit of fentanyl “is probably not more than you’d pay for lunch.”
Once again family members — those she must comfort and help assuage feelings of guilt because they couldn’t stop their loved one from killing themselves — are not telling her pain medication was the root of their loved one’s problem.
Mannix said it is never easy trying to comfort family members after a loved one dies but with drug overdoses it is particularly heart wrenching.
“Every death is somebody that’s lost somebody and a lot of times that’s been a long struggle,” Mannix said. “They’ve had a long history of addiction, these families have tried to help them. So there is a sense when they lose this battle of failure and loss.”