In four hours during the evening of August 15th, Huntington saw the most number of emergency calls for heroin overdoses. 28 people overdosed during that period and 26 of them were successfully saved. One man lost his life at the hospital that same night, and another one was found dead a couple of days later. Heroin isn't the only opiate drug in the market, but codeine, morphine, and fentanyl are also the culprits behind this silently spreading epidemic.
Chaos And Fear Engulfed The Residents
Ambulances were seen going around town and some cars pulled up at the local hospitals, dropping people who had overdosed at the doors of the emergency rooms. It's worth noting that the drugs in many cases were so potent that an ordinary dose of naloxone wasn’t sufficient and the responders had to use two or more doses to revive the overdosing individuals.
“It was all chaos here,” recalls Yohlanda Dixon, a resident of the neighborhood where dozens of people overdosed. “It seemed as if they were all dropping together at the same time, like boom-boom-boom. That what really scary. You could tell they were probably going to die. That’s the last kind of thing you would want to see, that is someone die in front of you.”
They Saw It Coming
Law enforcement officials had earlier warned for months about several batches of laced heroin that were hitting the market across the nation. Potent drugs like carfentanil or synthetic fentanyl, which are animal tranquilizers hundreds of times more powerful than an average dosage of heroin.
“We already knew this day would come. Though we didn’t know what exactly it would be like, but still we knew it was probably just a matter of some time,” said Jan Rader, who is Huntington’s deputy fire chief and also a registered nurse.
State Of The Victims Who Luckily Survived
Some of them cried when they woke up and realized they had come so close to dying due to the overdose, McClure said. Some shrugged, some thanked the nurses and apologized, and some even fought with them.
“In most cases, they just don’t want that life - I don't know what brought them there. They experience terrible guilt and don’t want to survive for their children either. But they are caught up in their personal battle,” McClure continues. “At the end of this long day, we have given 26 people a bonus chance at finding support and recovery. That’s how I look at it. Hopefully, they’ll all survive.”
Time To Fight This Nationwide Epidemic
Opioid-related deaths aren’t specifically a Huntington problem as about 40 Americans die on a daily basis due to an overdose of these powerful drugs, which are all within reach for millions of Americans. President Barack Obama has also announced that he's allocating $1.1 billion for this cause in his next budget to battle the epidemic. This amount of funding includes $1 billion spread over two years to improve accessibility to treatment for heroin use and prescription drug abuse.
The funding would also comprise of an additional $500 million to develop robust prevention strategies for prescription drug overdose at the state-level, widen the availability of medication-assisted addiction treatment programs, and easier access to the antidote Naloxone.