A county in Ohio has reported double-digit drug overdose deaths for a second weekend in a row, and it's only part of an ongoing problem this calendar year.
Dr. Anahi Ortiz, the coroner for Franklin County, reported Sunday their have been 15 overdose deaths over the last three days. The previous weekend saw 16 overdose deaths over three days.
Ortiz made the report through her Facebook page.
"Very sad weekend for Franklin County, we have seen 15 people die of overdoses in 72 hours," Dr. Ortiz wrote. "Families and friends of those who use please check on your loved ones, carry naloxone. Resources for treatment can be found at findtreatment.gov."
These latest numbers follow statistics released on July 1 that show overdose deaths through the first quarter of 2020 are up 55 percent in Franklin County when compared to 2019. The report from the Franklin County Coroner's Office shows 191 overdoses in the first three months of this year, with 123 overdose deaths in 2019.
"We've had a huge increase from last year to this year, and it even began before COVID got started," Dr. Ortiz told Newsweek. "The biggest increase was in February."
Though the stats haven't been published for the second quarter, Ortiz said April and May were just as bad, or perhaps even worse, than the previous three months. June followed suit, and July has seen the worst start. Fentanyl has been the most-detected drug in the overdose deaths, and Ortiz said that drug comes from other countries and makes its way to Ohio.
"We are apparently a hub for narcotics here in Franklin County and the Columbus area, so a lot of the drugs come from Mexico come here and get distributed out," Ortiz said.
She said the county "has problems with unemployment," and that poverty and homelessness are "big problems" in the area. Ortiz said those "social ills" typically bring more "deaths of despair." She added that homicides are also up more than 70 percent.
The largest age group for overdose deaths in the first quarter of 2020 was the 30-39 group, which accounted for 27.2 percent (52 deaths) of the total. The 50-59 age group was close behind at 26.2 percent (50 deaths), followed by the 40-49 age group with 20.9 percent (40 deaths).
The report also breaks down the deaths by gender, race, marital status and zip codes in the county that includes more than 1 million people and the state capital of Columbus.
The county shows that 70.2 percent of the deceased are males, and 68.1 percent are white. African Americans comprise 30.4 percent, while Hispanics make up 1 percent of the total.
It shows 52 percent of the deaths are people who have never been married, 25.7 are divorced and 14.7 percent of them were married at the time of their deaths.
Newsweek reached out to the Franklin County Coroner's Office on Sunday afternoon.
The county broke down the overdose deaths in the first quarter by the drug found in the body's system.
"For the first quarter of 2020, 70.2 percent (134) of the drug overdose deaths tested positive for Fentanyl, followed by Cocaine at 41.4 percent (79), Methamphetamine at 13.6 percent (26) and Alcohol at 13.1 percent (25)," the report stated.
It went on to say that those who tested positive for cocaine, 50 percent of them tested positive for Fentanyl as well. Also, 34.6 percent of those who tested positive for methamphetamines also tested positive for Fentanyl.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says more than 750,000 people have died from drug overdose since 1999. Of those, it states that overdose deaths including opioids, included those prescribed, have increased six-fold. There were 450,000 overdose deaths between 1999 and 2018, with prescription opioids the main overdose drug of the 1990s, according to the CDC.
The early part of this century saw a rise in overdose deaths from illegal opioids such as heroin, and synthetic opioids like Fentanyl began rising around 2013.