Drug overdose deaths occur more often in Montgomery County, Ohio, than any other place in the U.S. Figures recently released by county officials revealed 365 people have died from overdoses so far this year.
In 2016, Montgomery County had 371 recorded overdose deaths, and at the current pace, authorities estimate that number will easily double by the end of this year.
“We’re on a pace to have 800 people die this year due to overdose in our county,” said Sheriff Phil Plummer, as cited by NBC News. “Per capita, we’re Number 1 in the nation in overdose deaths.”
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department responds to numerous overdose calls every day. With so many cases, deputies are required to carry two doses of Narcan, a drug that helps reverse the effects of a drug overdose. Unfortunately, officers are still unable to prevent many victims from dying.
Almost 70 percent of the bodies examined by Montgomery County’s coroner are the result of a drug overdose. When performing an autopsy, the coroner’s office currently tests for over 24 types of fentanyl, a potent and highly addictive opioid pain medication.
Montgomery County is not the only part of the state overwhelmed by opioid drug overdoses. According to Coroner Kent Harshbarger, his staff performs examination services for several other Ohio counties, and he predicts at least 10,000 overdose cases will be processed before 2017 ends.
With so many people dying from drug overdoses, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine took action on May 31 by filing a lawsuit against five of the largest opioid drug companies. Naming Purdue Pharma, Endo Health Solutions, Allergan, Johnson & Johnson, and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries as defendants, DeWine believes these companies have helped fuel the country’s current opioid overdose crisis. The filed complaint claims misleading marketing tactics were used to distribute “false and deceptive statements about the risks and benefits of long-term opioid use.”
While the companies are claiming no wrongdoing, several have already paid out millions of dollars in settlements related to prior lawsuits over the opioid crisis. In addition to the Ohio charge, Purdue and Johnson & Johnson are also fighting lawsuits filed by the state of Mississippi, four counties in New York, two California counties, and the city of Chicago.
In Ohio, over 4,100 people died from opioid overdoses in 2016, a 36 percent increase from the year before. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 33,000 Americans died nationwide from opioid drugs in 2015, more than any other year on record.
Drug overdoses are responsible for more deaths among adults under 50 than any other cause, and health experts warn the number will increase unless something is done to slow or halt the opioid epidemic. In response to the growing overdose death toll, Montgomery County recently built an addition to the morgue so there would be more room for all the extra bodies.
[Featured Image by Andrew Burton/Getty Images]