The opiates epidemic isn't going away anytime soon, unfortunately. Recent findings show that opiates are still killing a person a day. However, this development actually shows progress when compared to last year's numbers. Not to mention the fact that morgues are actually experiencing backlogs due to the rate at which people are succumbing to fatal overdoses.
Elizabeth Mauro, the CEO of Mid-Erie Counseling and Treatment in Buffalo, New York, gave a perfect analogy of the current epidemic when she said that it's basically like trying to "[put] out a fire with a squirt gun." Last year's epidemic proved to have the worst numbers in history, with Erie County confirming 240 fatal overdoses due to opioids. Another 80 deaths are suspected to be attributed to opioids, which would add up to 320 deaths from opioids in 2016 in that county alone.
Now, six months later, it is estimated that one person in Erie County has died every day since the first of the year, according to local officials in the area. Erie County's District Attorney, John Flynn, said that "we as public officials have an obligation to…do something about this." He then added that he would be focusing additional resources on fighting the fight against opioids in his area.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz is on board with Flynn's plan, saying that "If you’re a dealer… [or] another individual in this supply chain that [is] providing drugs… [then] you need to be prosecuted." Polancarz is realistic about the situation, however, adding that he knows that "not everything is going to work…some things are going to work, and you [just] try to do more.”
Sadly, New York is far from being the only state to see record opioid epidemic numbers. In December of 2016, it was reported that deaths related to opioid usage surpassed homicides in which a gun was used as the murder weapon. Granted, the difference in the two numbers was only 10 deaths, but the number of opioid deaths itself was staggering at over 33,000.
That number was up 5,000 deaths since the numbers reported the year before. Additionally, it was only as recent as 2007 that gun homicides outnumbered fatal heroin overdoses by more than 5 to 1.
Deaths from fentanyl rose by almost 75 percent between 2014 and 2015, and that was still a year before legendary musician Prince died from overdosing on fentanyl. His death helped raise awareness of the potency of this fatal drug. Deaths related to heroin usage spiked in 2015 too, with over 2,000 additional cases being reported that year. This was the first time since the '90s that heroin caused more deaths than opioid painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone.
Heroin and fentanyl are essentially sister drugs, as they tend to be combined to make an even more powerful (and even more lethal) combination. The problem is that many people don't know what they're getting, and when they buy what they think is heroin from their dealers, they're actually getting a combination of heroin cut with fentanyl – and fentanyl is infinitely more powerful than heroin.