Heroin overdoses spike in Louisville, Kentucky


Heroin overdoses spike in Louisville, Kentucky

Naomi Spencer

17 February 2017

Across the United States, the heroin epidemic continues to worsen in 2017. Cities across the country have reported rising numbers of overdoses in January and the first weeks of February. Last week, Louisville, Kentucky, reported 151 overdoses over four days, 52 of them within a 32-hour period.

City officials attributed the record spike to the introduction of the synthetic opioid fentanyl into the local illicit drug supply. Russ Read, co-founder of Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition, told local CBS News affiliate WLKY, “What we’re seeing in the streets right now is fentanyl mixed with heroin, as opposed to heroin mixed with fentanyl.”

Heroin overdoses have been rising in Louisville, as across the country, over the past few years. Metro officials report that in January, emergency crews responded to 695 overdose cases—an average of 22 overdose calls a day—33 percent more than the same period last year. Between February 9 and 12, first responders dealt with an average of 38 overdoses per day.

Louisville is a city with a population of around 760,000, a large segment of which lives in or near poverty. Per capita income in 2016 stood at $26,893, according to federal Census data, and 18 percent of residents live in poverty—up from 12.4 percent in 2010. At $41,000, Kentucky is ranked 47 nationwide in terms of median household income.

Fentanyl is a prescription painkiller 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, and between 30 and 50 times stronger than heroin. Even when taken in tiny amounts, fentanyl can cause respiratory depression or arrest, unconsciousness or coma. Overdoses can be counteracted with opioid blockers like naloxone or its brand-name medication Narcan, but fentanyl overdose…

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