Coroner on deadly drug combo: Narcan isn’t enough - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Coroner on deadly drug combo: Narcan isn’t enough

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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -

More than 400 overdose deaths were investigated in Hamilton County in 2016.

Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco on Monday released statistics about the area's continuing opioid crisis. 

She said investigators are dealing with deadly drug combinations that even Narcan can't combat. 

"We have seen everything from Heroin, Fentanyl, Carfentanil, Fluorofentanyl, Acrylfentanyl, Butyrfentanyl.  We've seen a lot of different combinations, along with cocaine," Sammarco said.

Narcan lasts between 18 and 30 minutes, but Carfentanil can stay in the body for up to 7 hours. That means a person is still at risk of overdosing once the antidote wears off. 

Dr. Sammarco said Narcan remains an important, life-saving tool. 

"We feel that Narcan has saved a considerable number of people in this county in the last couple of years," she said. "There is no doubt in our minds that we would have a much higher overdose death rate in this county if not for having Narcan readily available to not just family members and people at risk and their partners but to our fire and police that are out there as our first responders."  

In 2015, more than 2,000 doses of Narcan were administered, for 4,700 milligrams.

Dr. Sammarco said in 2016, almost 6,500 milligrams of Narcan were administered in Hamilton County.

Not all of 2016 overdose victims lived in Hamilton County, but all died in Hamilton County.

"The same way that we have people coming from Butler and Clermont County and dying here in Hamilton County, I'm sure there are Hamilton County residents that are going across the county lines and dying in our neighboring counties," said Dr. Sammarco. "We just report the actual deaths in Hamilton County."

Of the 403 deaths, 342 were opiate-related.

Dr. Sammarco said 415 people died from overdoses in 2015, with an estimated 240 opiate-related deaths.

The number of overdose deaths has been rising over the past several years:

2012- 204 deaths

2012- 259 deaths

2014- 298 deaths

2015- 414 deaths

2016- 403 deaths

"This year, to date, we already have 221 suspected drug overdoses in Hamilton County," said Dr. Sammarco. 

The coroner also discussed concerns about a drug called "gray death," a mixture named for its gray, powdery appearance.

Dr. Sammarco also warned of a high uptick in carfentanil use, a drug used to tranquilize elephants or other large mammals.

"That's truly back on streets," she said. 

Authorities have also seen a 30 percent increase in cocaine so far this year.

The coroner also released data on the number of drugs submitted for analysis.

In 2016, almost 28,000 items were submitted to the lab.  

"That's a huge number," said Dr. Sammarco. "That's absolutely huge." 

A graph shows that through April 2017, roughly 9,000 items have been submitted.

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