Are overdose numbers down because of less drug use or more naloxone?


For the past year, we’ve been reporting on the extremely high overdose numbers in Trumbull County. Now those numbers are way down — a decrease of 90 percent since the peak in September.

In 2017, Niles averaged 14 overdoses a month.

“There’s been occasions when we’ve had three or four overdoses in a single hour,” said Niles Police Capt. John Marshall.

But last month, only one overdose was reported in Niles.

“Hopefully that’s attributable to our aggressive efforts — both from our drug unit and from our street crimes unit in aggressive pursuing and enforcing drug violations in the city,” Marshall said.

It wasn’t just Niles. The numbers reported by the Trumbull County Combined Health District were down all over.

During March of 2018 in Trumbull County, there were only 22 reported overdoses — the lowest since overdoses first started being tracked in July of 2016. The previous low was 41 just a month before, in February.

In March of 2017, there were 189 overdoses. They peaked in September at 215.

“Use may be going down. I hope so,” said April Caraway, with the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board.

She said the numbers may be down because of the widespread availability of the overdose reversal drug, naloxone. There’s even a sign advertising free naloxone across from the Niles football stadium.

“People are getting brought back with naloxone and refusing to go to the hospital because our numbers only come from the hospital emergency department,” Caraway said. “If somebody refuses transport, then we don’t know about it.”

The Trumbull Ashtabula Group (TAG) Law Enforcement Task Force investigates the sale and use of illegal drugs. Commander Tony Villanueva attributes the drop in overdoses to several factors.

“It’s just everybody doing their part,” he said. “Recovery doing their part, law enforcement doing their part.”

Villanueva said more people are learning that there’s actually fentanyl in the heroin they’re getting.

Police said they’re also seeing more crack cocaine coming back to the area. This means that drug users may not be overdosing as much because cocaine doesn’t cause overdoses to the degree of heroin, and especially fentanyl.

Coroners said the number of overdose deaths isn’t falling like overdoses.

Since January 1 in Mahoning County, 25 people have died from overdoses. That’s down a little from last year, but not by 90 percent. In Mercer County, ten people have died, which is on pace to the same as last year.

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