Areas of Lorain County have seen an uptick in the usage of naloxone since the beginning of the month, according to data from LifeCare Ambulance Services Inc.
LifeCare serves Elyria, Lorain, Amherst, South Amherst, Amherst Township and Carlisle Township and provides backup service for Grafton. Between Oct. 1 and 9, emergency personnel responding to calls in Lorain, Elyria and Amherst have used naloxone in 13 separate cases, using a total of 24 doses.
Herb de la Porte, LifeCare vice president, said his dispatchers and supervisors in Lorain and Elyria confirmed the slight uptick.
“According to (our) supervisor in Elyria, it’s still not nearly as bad as what it was in ’16. … But it’s definitely more than we’ve seen in recent history,” he said. “We had a lull and now the last couple of days — especially and last couple of weeks in Lorain — it’s … more than what we’re used to.”
There were spikes in 2016 naloxone usage — like 157 in December — bringing the total recorded uses to 1,143 for that year. Last year saw a similar trend, with spikes in August (126) and September (131), bringing total doses in 2017 to 1,254. From January to September of this year, LifeCare has administered 619 doses of naloxone, including patients given multiple doses.
While the nasal-spray drug is given to reverse opioid overdoses, it is often administered to patients not called in specifically as an “overdose,” because opioid overdoses can cause symptoms including cardiac or respiratory distress, de la Porte said.
He said when being treated an overdose, patients will be administered naloxone until they get to the hospital — such as one patient on Oct. 2 who received five doses while in transit. More recently, he said, emergency crews are seeing people overdosing while alone, or are not found quickly, and when they have been without oxygen for an extended period of time, there is little the drug can do.
“A lot of the people they’re finding, they’re finding way after the fact and their outcome is not good,” De la Porte said. He said he suspects users are hiding or avoiding others while getting high, reducing their chances of being found quickly — and increasing the chances they will end up with Lorain County Coroner Dr. Stephen Evans.
“I would say LifeCare and the emergency rooms are saving a lot of people,” Evans said, “but the ones that we can’t save are the ones that they don’t call in a timely manner. A lot of those are ones that were alone and there was no one that could call.”
Evans said he has seen an increase in the past two months, when numbers had been down for the first half of the year. According to LifeCare’s numbers, emergency services delivered 65 and 66 doses in June and July, respectively, supported by Evans’ statement that deaths had been down then as well.
With the recent uptick, Evans now suspects the county this year will end up with close to the roughly 135 overdose deaths it saw last year — though it depends on if the upward trend continues.
He said recently the coroner’s office is seeing individuals dying with mixed drugs in their system — often cocaine and fentanyl or heroin.
“I think we’re saving more than we’re losing ... but it just goes to the breadth of the problem,” he said. “At one point I was foolishly thinking that this would die down. … I think myself and the rest of the United States have come to a realization that this is a huge problem, and it’s not going to go away.”
He said the continued deaths are across ages, race and socioeconomic lines. While there is a concentration of those 25 to 35 years old, he said he had a 19-year-old overdose recently, as well as people in their 50s or 60s. While LifeCare’s numbers cover only a section of the county, Evans receives calls from throughout the area.
“In the past, we didn’t have the resources to help people recover, and I think the government is realizing the scope of our problem and more and more programs are being developed,” he said. “I think my hope is that we are eventually going to turn the corner here. … At this point we’re still in deep trouble and it’s going to take time, effort and resources to combat this problem.”
In an effort to turn that corner, organizations like The LCADA Way are continuing to offer services and support, despite the seeming disadvantage they face when looking at the numbers. The LCADA Way CEO Tom Stuber echoed Evans in that the biggest problem still is fentanyl overloading users’ systems, whether they knew they were being exposed to it or not.
He said to see the numbers go down, those close to addicts will have to continue to help them get into rehab and watch closely for relapse — which is when many addicts overdose. After not using for a period of time, their tolerance drops, and when they go back to using at the same amount they did before entering into recovery, they face a greater risk of overdose.
“Family members need to very early on recognize an addiction, especially to opiates,” Stuber said. “The problem is oftentimes the efforts to help their loved one, (there) may be resistance — the problem is that the addict is driven by pain at that point and the fear of going through withdrawal is so intense.”
He suggests family and friends of those using opiates get a naloxone kit from the Lorain County Health Department and be trained by a nurse to use it. The number of overdose deaths has decreased, Stuber said, in part because of those kits.
He also stressed the importance of combining medical treatment like a detox facility with an extended residential treatment center, which is what the organization hopes to create through Recovery One Lorain County if Issue 14 passes. The 0.30-mill levy would fund the center, to be located at the former Golden Acres nursing home at 45999 North Ridge Road in Amherst.
For those looking to enter treatment, the Lorain County intake line for The LCADA Way is (440) 989-4900.
- Those for and against Issue 14 gather at Golden Acres
- Elyria police add second program to combat drug addiction
- Lorain County seeks levy for drug recovery facility
- North Ridgeville files suit against drug manufacturers
- The LCADA Way to expand beds, offer more treatment services to women
- Elyria sees decrease in drug overdoses
- Police see positives with recovery programs
- Lorain County coroner gets $17,000 for drug screening