Coroner Stephen P. Nonn reported that the total number of drug-related deaths in Madison County went down from to 92 in 2014 to 77 in 2015, however heroin overdoses have sharply increased.
Some tests still pending, but it is believed 43 of the 77 deaths were heroin-related. That number marks a significant rise from the 26 heroin-related deaths in 2014.
“Obviously availability is a big issue. It is very easy to find that drug in the metro east area, and once you find it and use it, you get addicted to it,” said Nonn.
As of Dec. 31, the Madison County Coroner’s Office confirmed 38 dead from heroin overdose in 2015. Following heroin, 11 died from prescription medications, seven from fentanyl overdose, and five deaths due to complications from drug abuse/usage. Several cases involving alcohol poisoning and other drug-related fatalities are still pending investigation.
According to Nonn, the heroin problem in Madison County is caused by the high volume and fast traffic around the area.
“The more available the drug is the more easy it is for people to get it, more people are going to try it and become addicted to it. Why in Madison County did the numbers go up? There are no hard facts I can point to to say that’s what it is, that’s why we’re overwhelmed,” said Nonn.
Madison County is not the only community inundated with heroin and opioid use. According to the Centers for Disease Control, drug overdose deaths hit record numbers in 2014. The biggest catalyst for these deaths were increases in prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin.
The CDC reported that six out of 10 overdose deaths involved these opioids. Specifically regarding heroin, the death rates increased by 26 percent in the United States from 2013-2014. The number represented 10,574 deaths in 2014. The trend began around 2010 across the country, with heroin overdoses tripling in the past four years. The timing was similar in Madison County, spreading addiction without discrimination to its victims.
“In all of these deaths that started back in 2009, there is no group mentioned, no group that is safe from the scope of this drug. We have had victims as young as 17 and as old as 63, from low, low middle class to very high upper middle class, black, white, Mexican, Oriental, there is no safe group that has not been touched by this drug,” said Nonn.