Ohio County Now Tops U.S. in Overdose Deaths

‘Mass-Casualty Event’: Ohio County Now Tops U.S. in Overdose Deaths

by Jacob Soboroff

DAYTON, Ohio — Officials in Montgomery County, Ohio, blame America’s opioid crisis for an ignoble title: the overdose capital of America.

“We’re on a pace to have 800 people die this year due to overdose in our county,” Sheriff Phil Plummer told NBC News. “Per capita, we’re Number 1 in the nation in overdose deaths.”

Overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 — they now claim more lives than car crashes, gun deaths and the AIDS virus did at their peaks.

In recent years, the synthetic opioid fentanyl been flooding Dayton and other American cities, trafficked by Mexican cartels who have turned the extremely potent drug into a money-maker.

In Ohio, it has sent the death toll surging. According to data from the Montgomery County coroner, 365 people died of drug overdoses from January through and May of this year; 371 people died of such causes in all of last year.

Related: What Is Fentanyl? The Drug That Killed Prince Has Killed Thousands of Others

On any given day, Montgomery County sheriff’s deputies respond to multiple overdose calls and are equipped with Narcan, or naloxone, a nasal spray that counteracts the effects of a drug overdose.

Each deputy carries two doses, but that isn’t always enough to save lives. One deputy said that more than 20 doses were needed to revive a recent victim and that victims often don’t survive.

The death toll has overwhelmed the coroner, who tests for more than two dozen varieties of fentanyl during autopsies, and the county morgue’s body cooler is consistently filled with overdose victims.

Coroner Kent Harshbarger estimates that 60 percent to 70 percent of the bodies he sees are those of overdose victims and that by the end of the year, he’ll have processed 2,000.

Because his staff covers one-fifth of Ohio, he estimates that the state will see 10,000 overdoses by the end of 2017 — more than were recorded in the entire United States in 1990.

“This is no different than some kind of mass-casualty event in any other form. It’s just a medical event,” Harshbarger said in a hallway just steps from several autopsy rooms that doctors were walking in and out of. “It needs to be recognized that way to bring some federal assets to help us.”

4 dead, at least a dozen hospitalized after mass overdose in Georgia

The Georgia Department of Public Health said as of Wednesday morning, six more overdose cases possibly related to fake Percocet were reported. None of these cases have been confirmed as overdoses related to the street drugs.

Georgia Poison Center is currently working with the hospitals and gathering more information to determine whether these additional cases are connected to the cluster of overdoses reported in the past three days.

State and local investigators are fanning out to catch those who sold street drugs linked to dozens of overdoses, include four fatal in Central Georgia.

Emergency workers responded in the last 48 hours to reports of overdoses in Centerville, Perry and Warner Robins, according to the GBI. However, the drugs might also have been sold on the street in other areas of the state.

Doctor are eagerly awaiting toxicology tests to find out what is in these pills that triggered this mass overdose.

They worry about the possibility of more cases if this drug is still on the streets.

“Difficulty breathing, slurred speech, most are coming through the ambulance,” Dr. Chris Hendry said.

The chief medical officer describes the symptoms of the rash of overdose patients that have arrived at a Macon hospital in the last 48 hours.

They all had one thing in common, they took pills that they thought were pharmaceutical quality pain meds. They were wrong.

Tiger Woods told police after his DUI charge that he has prescriptions for 4 drugs — here’s what they do

Tiger Woods DUITiger Woods told police after his DUI charge that he has prescriptions for 4 drugs — here’s what they do

Police arrested and charged Tiger Woods was with DUI at 3 a.m. on Monday morning, citing “an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications.” The police report indicated that Woods was found asleep in his car while it was running. An alcohol breathalyzer test showed Woods had a blood alcohol level of 0.00, but his arrest report indicates he was taking four prescription medications at various points in the past few years, most of which are typically prescribed for pain.

The officers recorded (and likely misspelled) these as “soloxex,” “torix,” “viox,” and Vicodin, according to The Palm Beach Post.

Vicodin, the brand name for a painkiller that combines the opiate hydrocodone with the over-the-counter pain reliever acetaminophen (or Tylenol), is a Schedule II substance due to its high potential for addiction. Its side effects can include confusion, depressed breathing, and drowsiness.

Torix, which is most likely a misspelling of Turox, is a brand name for another pain- and swelling-relief drug called etoricoxib. The drug is illegal in the US; its side effects can include fatigue and chest pain.

Vioxx, a brand name drug that Woods indicated he had not taken within the past year, was discontinued in 2004 after being linked to heart issues. It was used to reduce swelling.

Over the course of his career, Woods likely struggled with pain. He not only injured his knees, legs, and back playing golf, but also underwent multiple surgeries for those injuries and crashed a car. While we don’t know how he or his physicians chose to manage his pain, we do know that prescriptions for pain medications, including opioid painkillers, are common in such situations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of people who undergo surgery get an opioid prescription.

Woods’ non-opioid prescriptions also come with side effects —  while less severe than those that accompany Vicodin, the effects can include fatigue and confusion.

Painkillers to Heroin, New Film Shows It Can ‘Happen to Anybody”

by Corky Siemaszko

Only one of them is still alive when the credits close on “Warning: This Drug May Kill You,” a searing study of the plague directed by longtime New York newswoman Perri Peltz.

But in the final frames, the fate of a young survivor named Stephany Gay is anything but certain as she quits a program designed to wean her off the drugs that killed her sister and wrecked her life — after just six days.

“She is doing much better,” Peltz told NBC News, where she worked for many years before she began making documentaries. “She just completed a 30-day rehab program with medication and she will be starting another. Our fingers are crossed.”

That would be the kind of happy ending that was denied to Gail Cole, whose story about losing her 22-year-old son Brendan to a heroin overdose is part of the movie.

“What we’re trying to do with this documentary is honor his memory and make sure he did not die in vain,” said Cole, who lives in Allendale, N.J. “We are basically trying to get people more educated and aware that we have a heroin epidemic because we have prescription painkiller epidemic. And that it can happen to anybody.”

Peltz spoke to NBC shortly before the film made its debut Thursday at the Tribeca Film Festival. The new film comes as the governors of Ohio and New Jersey have taken steps to combat the crisis by limiting the amount of painkillers doctors can prescribe.

Three out of four “new heroin users” abused prescription opioids before they started using heroin, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

Peltz she said the seeds for the piece were planted during a discussion with one of the head honchos of HBO who wanted to know “why there were so many stories of people overdosing and dying.”

“Right now we have close to 100 people a day dying and she wanted to know why the narrative was those somehow these were bad kids abusing good drugs,” said Peltz. “By and large these aren’t bad people abusing good drugs. In fact, it’s good people who become addicted and most often it starts with a legitimate prescription.” Case in point: Wynne Doyle, a doomed mother of three in tony Mill Valley, California, whose road to ruin was paved with painkillers she was prescribed after her third C-section.

“Doctors were just throwing pills at her,” her still grieving husband says, his eyes welliing-up with tears.

Then there’s Georgia Cayce, who was 26 and living with her parents in New Jersey when she died of a heroin overdose. She got hooked not long after she was prescribed “monster painkillers” for a back injury she suffered during a fall.

“By the time the prescription ran out, she needed more,” her weeping father David Cayce says on camera.

And there’s young Brendan, who died of a heroin overdose four years after he was prescribed opioids after an operation to remove a cyst.

“You completely underestimate how hard the battle with addiction is,” his father, Brian, says in the film. “As a father you have this guilt that it happened on your watch.” Being reassured you did everything you could does not lessen the pain, he adds.

“That will always lingering the back of your mind,” Brian Cole says.

But it’s Gay’s story that looms largest over a documentary that begins with jarring footage of people overdosing, including one especially wrenching shot of a weeping child trying to pull her unconscious mother off the floor of a store.

As the stories unfold in the film, Peltz does not intrude.

“In a story that is as powerful as this, I felt a reporter’s voice imposing itself was not necessary,” she said. “The victims of this horrible epidemic speak more eloquently than I ever could.”

Gay, who lives north of Chicago, recounts how her heroin addiction began shortly after she was was sent home from the hospital with Dilaudid, Vicodin, and Oxycontin after she was treated for kidney stones at age 16.

“In the beginning I would take my Vicodin as prescribed,” she says.

Soon, she began taking “an extra one here and there.” And when she realized she had a problem and went to the doctor, she came home with yet another highly-addictive opioid — Percocet.

Gay describes how she wound up sharing pills with her older sister Ashley and how they graduated from that to snorting heroin.

“I felt it loved me,” Gay says. “I felt like it loved me.” And Gay’s love affair with heroin doesn’t wane even after her sister dies of an overdose in 2013.

“I do blame prescription opioids for my daughter’s addiction,” Gay’s mother, Kathy, says. “I trusted the doctors.”

“Warning: This Drug May Kill You” debuts on HBO on May 1st at 10 p.m.

Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

Benzodiazepine Abuse Overview

Commonly Abused Prescription and OTC DrugsBenzodiazepines are a type of medication known as tranquilizers. Familiar names include Valium and Xanax. They are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States. When people without prescriptions obtain and take these drugs for their sedating effects, use turns into abuse.

Doctors may prescribe a benzodiazepine for the following legitimate medical conditions:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Seizure control
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Inducing amnesia for uncomfortable procedures
  • Given before an anesthetic (such as before surgery)

Benzodiazepines act on the central nervous system, produce sedation and muscle relaxation, and lower anxiety levels.

Although more than 2,000 different benzodiazepines have been produced, only about 15 are currently FDA-approved in the United States. They are usually classified by how long their effects last.

  • Ultra-short acting – Midazolam (Versed), triazolam (Halcion)
  • Short-acting – Alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Long-acting – Chlordiazepoxide (Librium), diazepam (Valium)

Benzodiazepines are commonly abused. This abuse is partially related to the toxic effects that they produce and also to their widespread availability. They can be chronically abused or, as seen more commonly in hospital emergency departments, intentionally or accidentally taken in overdose. Death and serious illness rarely result from benzodiazepine abuse alone; however, they are frequently taken with either alcohol or other medications. The combination of benzodiazepines and alcohol can be dangerous — and even lethal.

Benzodiazepines have also been used as a “date rape” drug because they can markedly impair and even abolish functions that normally allow a person to resist or even want to resist sexual aggression or assault. In recent years, the detection and conviction of people involved in this has increased dramatically. The drug is usually added to alcohol-containing drinks or even soft drinks in powder or liquid forms and can be hard to taste.

Benzodiazepine Abuse Causes

Although some people may have a genetic tendency to become addicted to drugs, there is little doubt that environmental factors also play a significant role. Some of the more common environmental influences are low socioeconomic status, unemployment, and peer pressure.

Benzodiazepine Abuse Symptoms

At normal or regular doses, benzodiazepines relieve anxiety and insomnia. They are usually well tolerated. Sometimes, people taking benzodiazepines may feel drowsy or dizzy. This side effect can be more pronounced with increased doses.

High doses of benzodiazepines can produce more serious side effects. Signs and symptoms of acute toxicity or overdose may include the following:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Weakness
  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of coordination
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coma

Signs of chronic drug abuse can be very nonspecific and include changes in appearance and behavior that affect relationships and work performance. Warning signs in children include abrupt changes in mood or deterioration of school performance. Chronic abuse of benzodiazepines can lead to the following symptoms that mimic many of the indications for using them in the first place:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Anorexia
  • Headaches
  • Weakness

Despite their many helpful uses, benzodiazepines can lead to physical and psychological dependence. Dependence can result in withdrawal symptoms and even seizures when they are stopped abruptly. Dependence and withdrawal occur in only a very small percentage of people taking normal doses for short periods. The symptoms of withdrawal can be difficult to distinguish from anxiety. Symptoms usually develop at 3-4 days from last use, although they can appear earlier with shorter-acting varieties.

The Surprising Path From Student Athlete to Heroin Addict

When Robert King was a high school wrestler, he broke his foot and doctors prescribed him Percocet to help ease the pain. But he became addicted to the pain medication, and within a few years he moved on to a cheaper alternative: heroin.

“Once I started taking pills I never really stopped,” King told CBS News.

The now 24-year-old is now a recovering addict and struggling to get back on track.

King’s story is not an uncommon one. As the heroin epidemic continues to rage throughout the country, high school athletes are falling victim to addiction in alarming numbers.

A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that adolescent athletes are 50 percent more likely to abuse painkillers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hasn’t tracked addiction among athletes but says the young adult age group has been hit hard. Among 18- to 25-year-olds, heroin use has more than doubled in the last decade.

Jack Riley, Deputy Administrator at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), emphasized that addiction cuts across every demographic group.

“Heroin never discriminates, and athletes are no different,” he said. “This dangerous drug has become a powerful weapon of mass destruction for drug addicts, some of whom are athletes who first became addicted to painkillers while rehabilitating from sports injury.”

Jason Ruggeri is another former student athlete recovering from heroin addiction. He started taking painkillers after injuring his knee during college football practice. Ruggeri said his doctor did not warn him how powerful the drugs can be.

That medication led him to heroin, which led to an accidental overdose.

“It also left me completely homeless and on the street,” Ruggeri said.

Both he and King have found treatment at St. Christopher’s Inn in Garrison, New York, which runs one of the most successful rehab programs in the state.

Director David Gerber said about a quarter of the shelter’s residents are athletes.

“These medications mask the pain but do nothing to treat the injury,” he said. “So it often worsens the injury, making the need for more medications, and they become addicted.”

King’s brother was also an addict. Two weeks ago, he died of a heroin overdose.

“He was trying to help me,” King said. “And he did. He got me to get into recovery in the first place.”

He said his brother’s death is now his inspiration to stay clean.

Monthly Vivitrol Treatment Helps Fight Heroin Addiction

vivitrolSean Lyman has a standing appointment at his doctor’s office every 28 days. Like clockwork, the recovering heroin addict is injected with an emerging treatment drug that he says has turned his life around.

“The shot is just… I don’t know how to describe it, besides it’s a miracle,” Lyman told CBS News.

The 25-year-old Vermont resident has battled addiction for years; he was hooked on prescription painkillers before he moved on to the more powerful and cheaper alternative, heroin. Lyman says he’s been in and out of jail and more than half a dozen rehab programs that haven’t worked.

Now Lyman is among a small, but growing number of opioid addicts embracing Vivitrol. The monthly injection is the first treatment that’s kept him clean.

Doctors and the drug maker, Alkermes, recommend users go through detox first. Then, the injection stops cravings and blocks the body’s opioid receptors, so even if users try to get high they don’t feel it. Vivitrol is not addictive like other treatments can be, including suboxone and methadone, and there’s no black market for it. Lyman said not long after he began the injections, he put it to the test.

“I actually tried… to get high because I was having a hard time and the shot stopped it.” Lyman said. “At the time, I was very angry that I didn’t get high. But the next day, I was so thankful. I can’t even describe it. And I haven’t even thought about sticking a needle in my arm since then.”

Lyman lives in White River Junction, Vermont. Since he started his Vivitrol injections 15 months ago, he says six of his friends have died from overdoses. Like much of the country, Vermont is in the grips of a drug crisis that prompted Gov. Peter Shumlin to devote his entire 2014 State of the State address to the heroin epidemic. The number of people treated for heroin abuse there has quadrupled over the past decade. Shumlin has been candid and outspoken about the problem and is leading the call for new solutions. He believes Vivitrol may be one of them.

“The first thing we’re doing is approving it in all of our treatment centers. And we’ve been building out treatment centers like mad in Vermont. So then we also want to try it in our prisons because that’s frankly a good place to do it,” Shumlin said.

The state is rolling out a pilot program this month where recovering addicts coming out of the Marble Valley Correctional Center in Rutland will be offered the shot. If successful, state leaders plan to expand it to all of the state’s seven prisons, which could help as many as 350 inmates.

“Let’s start providing treatment and medicines that can actually get people back to productive lives,” Shumlin said in an interview.

The pilot program is funded as part of a three-year, $3 million grant from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services/Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration. Outside of the program, the shot can cost more than $1,000 a month, but many insurance companies and Medicaid cover it.

Vivitrol was first approved to treat alcohol dependence in 2006. Since the FDA approved the injection for opioid dependence in 2010, Alkermes says there are now around 100 programs using it in 30 states. Since its approval, sales have jumped from more than $18 million in 2009 to more than $106 million in the first three quarters of 2015 . While the company said programs in Michigan, Missouri, Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, and Ohio were some of the earliest adopters, it believes Vermont is the only state that has approved it for use statewide.

“It is gratifying to see use of VIVITROL increasing across the country. It has taken time – VIVITROL is a new approach to treating opioid addiction and it requires new behaviors by physicians, counselors, nurses and other elements of the treatment system,” Alkermes CEO Richard Pops said in a statement. “In many ways, the expansion of these programs has been somewhat organic, meaning that the success of one program in a particular county may spur another county to develop their own.”

Lyman says he will keep taking Vivitrol until he is comfortable enough to stop. But for the first time in years he says he’s happy. He now has a full-time job and he and his girlfriend have a baby daughter. He says she is a constant reminder of why he’s fighting to stay clean.

“Knowing I can live a life sober, and not have to depend on that. I can’t stop smiling thinking about it. It’s just crazy.”

For more information contact Vivitrol  provider Dr. Steven Scanlan

Palm Beach Outpatient Detox
7251 W. Palmetto Park Rd.
Suite 204
Boca Raton, FL 33433
(561) 901-0040

Ohio Cops Release Images of Couple Passed Out in Suspected Overdose with Boy, 4, in the Car

Ohio police have posted shocking photos of two unconscious adults – who police believe had overdosed on heroin – in a car with a 4-year-old boy in the back seat.

On its Facebook page, the city of East Liverpool, Ohio, shared the photos Thursday, along with a police report. Police say that they responded to a call of an incapacitated driver when they came across the disturbing scene.

In the post, the city explained why they took the unorthodox step of publicizing the pictures. (PEOPLE has chosen to blur the child’s face and is not linking to the Facebook page, which shows the child.)

“We feel it necessary to show the other side of this horrible drug,” the city says. “We feel we need to be a voice for the children caught up in this horrible mess. This child can’t speak for himself but we are hopeful his story can convince another user to think twice about injecting this poison while having a child in their custody.”

We are well aware that some may be offended by these images and for that we are truly sorry,” the statement continues. “But it is time that the non drug using public sees what we are now dealing with on a daily basis.

“The poison known as heroin has taken a strong grip on many communities, not just ours. The difference is we are willing to fight this problem until it’s gone and if that means we offend a few people along the way we are prepared to deal with that.”

The city’s post has received thousands of comments, positive and negative, with users seemingly fractured about the effectiveness of such a shame-based message. Some wondered why authorities chose to include the child’s face in the post.

According to the police report, an officer saw the vehicle allegedly driving erratically and then slamming on the brakes as it approached a school bus. The officer then approached the vehicle and found James Acord in the driver’s seat.

“I noted his head bobbing back and forth,” the officer wrote. “His speech was nearly unintelligible.” The officer also noticed that his pupils were dilated.

A passed-out woman, Rhonda Pasek, was in the passenger’s seat, according to report. The officer wrote that he reached into the vehicle and removed the keys as Acord allegedly attempted to drive away after telling police he was taking Pasek to the hospital.

In their back seat was a 4-year-old boy later identified as Pasek’s grandson, authorities said, though the report erroneously said he was her son.

Acord “eventually went completely unconscious,” the officer wrote.

An ambulance arrived, and paramedics administered Narcan, a drug used to counteract a heroin overdose, according to the officer.

The officer also wrote that a piece of paper with a “pink powdery substance” was allegedly found on the passenger seat between Pasek’s legs.

Acord was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, endangering children, and slowing or stopping in a roadway.

Pasek was charged with endangering children, public intoxication and not wearing a seat belt.

The boy is now in the custody of Columbiana County Children Services, according to the report.

Acord, Pasek and local authorities did not immediately return PEOPLE’s calls for comment. It was unclear Friday whether Acord or Pasek had retained attorneys or entered pleas.



Delray Beach Police See Surge in Heroin Overdoses

Delray Beach police continue to express alarm about heroin overdoses in the city. The department says officers answered 13 overdose calls from Friday to Monday and two resulted in deaths. One of the victims was a 35-year-old man and other was a 26-year-old man. In May officers responded to 17 heroin-related overdoses in which three people died. Drug experts think people are turning to heroin because Florida cracked down on pain pill abuse.

Police suspect fentanyl, which is used to cut the heroin, is playing a role in the deaths. They say fentanyl is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and since there is no way to know how much is in any one dose, users are gambling with their lives.

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Heroin Laced with Elephant Tranquilizer Hits the Streets

painkillersThe American heroin epidemic has become more dangerous, as reports of heroin laced with carfentanil are being reported throughout the country. Carfentanil is the most potent opioid used commercially, 10,000 times stronger than morphine. It is a version or analogue of fentanyl, the painkiller that most recently made headlines with its role in the death of pop star Prince.

Carfentanil can slow breathing significantly. It’s not approved for human use but is used commercially to sedate large animals, such as elephants. About 2 milligrams can knock out a nearly 2,000-pound African elephant.

Many users may not know they are even taking the drug, officials have said, as dealers are cutting heroin with fentanyl analogues to give it a boost and stretch their supply.

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