Spike in heroin overdoses take toll on Ohio town's psyche


Associated Press

MARION, Ohio (AP) - The usual handwringing over the heroin problem turned into panic in this small city in May when a supercharged blue-tinted batch from Chicago sent more than 30 overdose victims to the hospital and two to the morgue in a 12-day stretch.

Like many places in America, Marion - an hour’s drive north of the Ohio capital of Columbus - has gotten used to heroin. Emergency crews in the city of 37,000 have become accustomed to treating an overdose patient about once a day for the past year or so. But they were stunned when the unprecedented onslaught began on May 20.

They say if it hadn’t been for naloxone, an antidote carried by paramedics, most of the survivors probably would have died, too. They ranged in age from their late teens to early 60s.

“We were going from one to another to another, sometimes going back to the same house twice in one day for two different people,” said Police Chief Bill Collins, who called for help from state and federal agencies. They hope to find the source of so-called “blue drop” heroin laced with the powerful painkiller fentanyl that is believed to have caused 56 overdoses and five deaths here since mid-April.

Collins and others say the recent spike in overdoses and drug-related crime underscores how outgunned they are by a growing public-health scourge that has invaded nearly every neighborhood and taxes emergency services already cut to the bone. Not nearly enough addiction treatment is available.

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