GALLIPOLIS — The Gallia Citizens for Prevention and Rehabilitation coalition gathered Monday to discuss overdose trends across the state and county with a presentation led by Dr. Joe Gay regarding the dangers of fentanyl and carfentanyl.
Gay has previously served with Appalachian Behavioral Health Care, was a clinical director with Health Recovery Services and a program director of Bassett House, a residential facility for chemically dependent adolescents.
According to data presented by Gay, Gallia County suffered three overdose deaths in 2001, two in 2007, four in 2008, five in 2009, three in 2010, six in 2011, three in 2012, seven in 2013, six in 2014, nine in 2015 and eleven in 2016. One death in 2014 and three in 2015 were caused by fentanyl. Two in 2012, four in 2013, two in 2014 and three in 2015 were caused by heroin. Two in 2008, one in 2009, one in 2010, three in 2011, one in 2013 and two in 2015 were caused by prescription opioids. The information Gay presented was based on reports gathered from the Ohio Department of Health.
“In the year 2000, there were 411 overdose deaths in Ohio, a little more than one a day,” said Gay. “In the year 2016, which is the latest report, there were 4,050. That’s 10 times as many, more than 10 overdose deaths a day in Ohio. There has been a huge increase…It grows starting back around 2012 and 2013. It really goes up sharply. The question is why so many more deaths now?”
Gay said in 2014, state data begins to reveal an increase of deaths relating to the drugs fentanyl and carfentanyl.
“They’re opiates just like your other opiates, including heroin and other prescription opiates,” said Gay,” except that they are very potent. On a milligram per milligram basis, fentanyl is maybe 50 times stronger than heroin.”
With reported trends of heroin mixtures being cut with fentanyl or carfentanyl, it has become easier than ever to overdose, according to Gay. Just a slightly inaccurate measurement during the mixing process could prove lethal, he said.
Carfentanyl, according to some experts, is 10,000 more potent than morphine.
Dealers will cut heroin with fentanyl and its upgraded sister in order to make their product go further. A similar comparison can be illustrated with the idea of a drinker adding a shot of whiskey to a beer.
“A little over half the deaths in 2016 (across the state) involved fentanyl,” said Gay. “…The question is this doubling in deaths from 2012 until 2016 due to more people using or due to the extreme potency of fentanyl? I think it’s due mostly to the potency of fentanyl and the shift in patterns of use (from pills, to heroin and then to mixed heroin throughout the state).”
Gallia Citizens for Prevention and Rehabilitation meet the second Monday of every month in Holzer Medical Center’s French 500 Room. The public is open to attend. The group is compromised of area law enforcement, faith-based organizations, medical and behavioral health professionals as well as civic organizations.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.