To say there has been a nationwide spike in the use of narcotics and other controlled substances is an understatement. Drug use has skyrocketed and become an epidemic across all ages, including our children, who are often exposed to drugs amid their peers in their early teens. Medical personnel in a large number of facilities are now required to stock Naloxone, or as it is also known, Narcan, a drug that counteracts the effects of opioid use and if administered in a timely manner, can save a life. Emergency rooms are seeing an influx of overdose cases, and even urgent cares and primary care facilities have had to stock the drug and frequently rush patients who end up there inadvertently to nearby hospitals.
Louisville, Kentucky, is no exception. Like many metropolitan areas across the country, Louisville has seen a sharp increase in the number of drug overdoses and drug related crime cases. Between Wednesday, February 8th, at midnight and 8AM Friday morning, February 10th, Metro Emergency Services in the Louisville area responded to a total of 52 overdose calls. The prior week, the agency received 25 similar calls with callers overdosing on everything from prescription medications to illegal drugs and other controlled substances, so the number skyrocketed to double the amount within a week’s time. Luckily, there have been no overdose deaths reported. However, one individual did die in a car crash while high on heroin. Many overdoses are being treated at Norton Audubon Hospital in Louisville, where patients are requiring larger and larger doses of naloxone to counteract the drug. The number of patients requiring full admission, rather than being released after administrating the medication, has skyrocketed, limiting space to treat those affected. And, the emergency room is seeing more and more repeat patients who can’t kick their habits.
There has also been a problem with fentanyl-laced heroin, which has led to many overdoses across the nation. Authorities in Louisville say it’s too soon to tell if the skyrocketed numbers will be an issue in their area. However, Metro Emergency Services did answer nearly 700 overdose calls for heroin during the month of January, averaging 22 per day. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer indicated last month that the police department is hiring 150 additional officers and adding two new detective squads to investigate crimes involving narcotic use. The mayor says they’re very serious about cracking down on substance use and associated crimes. “We’re collaborating with the DEA on overdose death investigations to get heroin dealers off our streets, and forming a task force with other agencies, including the FBI, the DEA, ATF, the U.S. Attorney, Kentucky State Police and the State Attorney General’s Office, to pursue, arrest and prosecute our most violent offenders,” he said.
Nationwide, medical personnel have witnessed a spike in heroin and fentanyl use with the death rate from synthetic opioids increasing over 72 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even those patients who have cancer and other terminal diseases who use fentanyl and other controlled substances under the supervision of licensed doctors and facilities are becoming addicted to the drugs, and are having a hard time weaning off the substances if it’s determined they are no longer needed.