Update: Another week, another torturous update of devastating numbers.
The Akron Beacon Journal
reports on the current OD toll in the city, and the escalation of the problem, tied by authorities to the influx of a powerful elephant sedative in the heroin chain:
From January to June, Akron paramedics responded to about 320 drug overdose calls.
In the three weeks between July 5 and July 26, paramedics logged 236.
The dramatic spike, from two or fewer per day to 11 or more, is thought to be the result of the introduction of carfentanil to the Akron drug market. The heroin-like drug is so potent it’s used to sedate elephants in zoos.
So far this year, 63 people have died of drug overdoses in Akron. Twenty of the deaths can be attributed to the ongoing spike.
Update (7/21/16): Just a week later, and the numbers continue to climb.
Starting on July 5, officials in Akron began noticing a spike in heroin and fentanyl-related overdoses in the city. As the weeks went on, the digits kept piling up as authorities learned that many of the ODs stemmed from heroin that had been cut with carfentanil, a powerful sedative used most commonly on elephants.
While the pace has slowed the death toll inches upward.
Since July 5, there have now been 141 overdoses and 14 deaths, according to the Akron Beacon Journal
“This is definitely an increase from what we’ve seen in the past couple years,” Akron police spokesperson Lt. Rick Edwards told the paper.
(Original story 7/14/16): In reporting the advances of Northeast Ohio's opiate epidemic, one comes across a fair number of "WTF moments." Here's one for you: The Akron police chief says that many of the 91 overdoses in his city since July 5 come from heroin cut with carfentanil
, a wildly powerful opiate commonly used to sedate elephants and rhinoceroses.
"It's brand new. I learned about carfentanil maybe eight days ago, seven days ago. It wasn't on the radar. The carfentanil is being cut into the heroin," Chief James Nice tells WEWS
, which first reported this development.
Eight of those 91 overdoses have been fatal.
Dr. Kimberly Cook, director of animal health and conservation at the Akron Zoo, said carfentanil is an ultra potent opioid that is used an anesthetic for very large animals such as elephants or hoof stock. She also said it's 100 times stronger than fentanyl.
Cook explained veterinarians who use the drug must take strict precautions.
"It's an incredibly dangerous drug," Cook said. "We're concerned that even a drop could get in an eye so we wear eye protection. We wear long sleeves. We wear gloves."
Akron police are all-hands-on-deck now, with two arrests thus far on the books in this case. (No information about those suspects has been released publicly, and no carfentanil has been seized by police.)
“This is a public health crisis,” Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said when the overdose spike first broke
earlier this month. “We cannot arrest our way to sobriety.”