Deadly drug overdoses soar in the suburbs

Posted at 6:01 PM, Mar 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-31 07:24:01-04

It's no secret in Harford County.  Fatal drug overdoses are ruining lives and tearing families apart.

"One of the worst weekends that I had here, we had six overdoses,” said Upper Chesapeake Medical Center Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Fermin Barrueto Jr.  "We had to pronounce some of them dead, some of them we had to get to the intensive care unit."

Year after year, the numbers keep going up.  In 2017, 91 people have already overdosed, with 22 people losing their lives thanks to popping pills or shooting up.

An alarming trend that's happening across the country, especially in the suburbs.

"The death rate right now from heroin overdoses is higher than it was for the AIDs epidemic in 1995,” Barrueto said.  “We have more people dying from heroin overdoses then we do from guns, we have more people dying from heroin overdose then we do from car accidents."

Heroin use in the United States has risen five-fold over the past ten years.

New research finds stark disparities between communities and ethnic groups.  The 2017 county health rankings report was released Wednesday, and found some frightening trends.  According to the study- suburbs have gone from having the lowest rates of fatal overdoses to being number one.  While the deadly drugs are claiming the lives of folks who are white and Native American more than any other ethnic group.

In Harford, local leaders are trying hard to battle the epidemic.  But experts say more resources are needed to help addicts get clean and stay sober.

"It is a brain disease, we have biochemical pathways that show this is a disease entity that needs to be treated just like diabetes, just like high blood pressure,” said Barrueto.  “And we simply do not have the resources, we try and refer some patients and we look at weeks, months before they're able to get in to see counselors or addiction specialists."

About 18-months ago, Upper Chesapeake Medical Center started handing out naloxone kits to people coming to the emergency room for overdoses.  So far, they have given away more than 250 of the heroin overdose antidote kits.