The final count has not been completed, but drug-overdose deaths in Butler County likely were about the same in 2019 as they were a year earlier.
Through October, the number of overdose deaths — many from heroin and other opioids — was about 150, and Martin Schneider, spokesman for Butler County Coroner Lisa Mannix’ office, said he expects that when toxicology reports for November and December are completed, the 2019 deaths will be around the 2018 level of 164.
One trend the local medical examiners have noticed is an increase in methamphetamine overdose deaths.
That’s well down from the high of 232 in 2017, but still way too high, Schneider said of the drug scourge that has afflicted many families and friends across the county in recent years.
“We’re certainly improved over where we were in 2017, but we’re still on a high level,” Schneider said.
“To use an analogy, if you’re in a flood and the flood level is in your house and up to the second floor, then a few days later the flood has receded down to only halfway up your first floor, well, you’ve improved, but you’re still flooded — you’re still doing pretty bad,” he said. “That’s kind-of about where we are.”
An apparent drop off in fentanyl in the heroin mix may be one reason for the reduction. Meanwhile, methamphetamine deaths are on the rise.
“Mid-2016 was the first time we saw — that we know of — the appearance of the really deadly fentanyl analogs,” Schneider said. “And then we started seeing a lot more of it in 2017.”
Fentanyl “seems to have dropped off,” he said. “We don’t have anything additional coming in to what we’ve seen — why that is, I don’t know.”
Perhaps people have been scared away from heroin use from fear of the many deaths that were happening, and moved on to different drugs, he guessed. Also, “I’d like to think maybe law enforcement and them breaking some of the supply lines has potentially helped.”
Meanwhile, “We’ve seen a rise in methamphetamine among our overdose deaths,” Schneider said. “It had almost been eradicated from the county, but we’re starting to see it coming back year by year, and it’s creeping its way up.”
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