Drug overdoses take a toll on the Tri-State

Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, law enforcement officers talk about the increase in overdose deaths (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, the Hamilton County Health Commissioner and members of local law enforcement discussed the continuing opioid epidemic with the final numbers of fatal overdoses from 2016.

In 2016, 342 out of 403 overdoses were from a jumble of heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil, and cocaine. That's a hundred more than 2015.

Dr. Sammarco discussed the questions surround the so-called gray death. She said it's hard to track because it's not one combination of drugs. The name comes from the appearance because it looks like gravel or gray powder. She also said it's not new.

What's being attributed to gray death has been around since last fall but Dr. Sammarco said they can be very deadly. There's no set ingredients or concentration. "If you're taking drugs, you really are taking a gamble."

Warning addicts isn't working. The Hamilton County Health Commissioner says that's because it's a disease.

"This is a disease of the brain; people can clean themselves out… if craving hasn't been treated… go back to using,” said Hamilton County Health Commissioner Tim Ingram.

So far this year, eight emergency rooms treated 1,400 overdoses. The health commissioner talked about a proposal that would have ER's linked to rehab centers to get the patients help right away.

Newtown Police Chief Tom Synan said we have to stop demonizing the addict. "Twenty years ago, we demonized the dealer and the addict kind of was the person we had compassion for. But we're now demonizing the addict."

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