Drug Overdose Awareness Day sheds light on record-breaking drug-related deaths in the Valley
Wednesday is International Drug Overdose Awareness day, and to help combat overdose deaths, naloxone boxes are being placed across the country.
The Valley has gotten six just in the last year, and one of the Narcan boxes was placed at the Boardman Holiday Inn Wednesday morning in case of an opioid-related emergency.
Overdose awareness could not be more prevalent since Mahoning and Trumbull County saw record-breaking overdoses during the pandemic and are still seeing similar trends.
So why are there so many new overdoses in our community?
We continue to see the long-term impact of the opioid crisis, but Mahoning County said the recent significant increase in overdose deaths is because there is more assessability to drugs, specifically containing fentanyl, which other countries continue to smuggle into the United States, resulting in new cases of substance abuse disorders.
2022 Toxicology reports in Mahoning show 89% of overdoses found fentanyl-laced cocaine and meth, among other drugs.
Brenda Heidinger with the Mahoning County Mental Health & Addiction Recovery Board said fentanyl is more likely to cause a fatal overdose because it's stronger than other opiates.
"People are overdosing because they think they're taking a stimulant when they're really taking a stimulant laced with an opiate, and they have no tolerance," Heidinger said.
Couple this with the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused many recovering addicts to relapse, making for a perfect storm resulting in a higher amount of overdoses.
"When the pandemic happened, it closed our treatment centers," Angela Divito, Executive Director of the Coalition for Drug-Free Mahoning County, said, "It closed our 12-step meetings, and people were left with a sense of uncertainty."
So far, in 2022, Mahoning County has seen 48 unintentional confirmed drug overdoses as of May 31st.
In 2021, the county had 161 confirmed overdose deaths.
Heidinger said it looks as though 2022 will be on track to see the same numbers of overdose deaths as 2021.
Trumbull County has seen 30 confirmed overdoses so far in 2022 and had 117 official overdoses in 2021.
April Caraway with the Trumbull County Mental Health & Recovery Board said many people are still finding ways to obtain prescription drug medications, often laced, leading to overdoses.
"Sometimes they turn to get online orders, and the online orders are pressed pills with fentanyl in them, so we are seeing overdoses as a result of that throughout the country," Caraway said.
It's also important to note that there are a lot of reported overdoses not yet confirmed for 2022, which will more than likely result in much higher overdose deaths.
Everyone in the community is encouraged to get a Narcan kit for free through your county health department.
Trumbull County said residents can pick them up at the building.
Mahoning County residents can also get Narcan kits at the health department or go online and have a kit mailed to their homes by clicking here.
A limited number of Naloxboxes are available for Mahoning County businesses through the Coalition for a Drug-Free Mahoning County (330) 771-7732.