Euclid is a small community located on the shores of Lake Erie. It occupies nearly 10 square miles and is home to just about 50,000 people. That is the reason why there is need to worry about the number of people rescued by the town's fire department in 2015. Naloxone was administered to 145 overdose patients in the previous year alone.
The drug serves as an antidote for people who overdose on opiates as a result of heroin, prescription pills or fentanyl. The fire department managed to save most of the victims it treated, a majority of who did not reside in Euclid.
Looking at the size of the community and the number of overdose patients responded to by the fire department in a single year is enough to paint a picture of the depth of the problem. This crisis is now being driven by the growth of a new and deadlier threat, fentanyl. Just like heroin and some other prescription pills like Oxycontin and Oxycodone, it is an opiate based drug.
It is used legally as a sedative in open-heart surgery cases and as a prescribed painkiller for cancer patients. Cartels have found a way to mix it with illegal heroin and ship it across the border and into the country. According to medical research, the drug is nearly 80 times more powerful than morphine.
According to statistics released by the Medical Examiner in Cuyahoga County, the number of people who died as a result of fentanyl overdose sharply increased between 2013 and 2015. In 2016, and for the first time ever, deaths attributed to fentanyl overdoses are outpacing heroin-related deaths. That's a worrisome trend considering fentanyl's potency.
Drug cartels are now disguising fentanyl to appear like a prescription pill. This has highly contributed to the rise in its use. The County Medical Examiner, Dr. Thomas Gilson, says that they have never seen anything like it. Dr. Joan Papp, who works with MetroHealth Medical Center, has been actively involved in trying to tame the epidemic. She reckons that addiction is a disease that requires treatment. She is a founding member of "Project Dawn", a program which seeks to provide legal and free antidote kits in the form of nasal spray to people who need them. It is difficult to stay sober even after undergoing the best type of treatment, so what the program does is to at least give addicts a chance to survive in case of overdose.
The project has achieved some remarkable success, with 32 people saved in 2013. Still, there is a reason to avoid celebrating such an achievement because it only goes to show the rapid level at which the epidemic is rising. In the year 2014, the number of those saved by the program nearly tripled to ninety two and then almost doubled in 2015. These statistics, combined with the number of overdose victims rescued in Euclid alone, indicates that without the antidotes, several more people could have died in just the last two years. The authorities in Euclid expect to respond to even more cases of overdose this year compared to the previous one.