Report: ‘Heroin Hits Home’ Harder Than Ever

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CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Close to 200 people died of heroin overdoses last year in Cuyahoga County alone, and another 85 died from opiate-related medications, proving that a deadly epidemic continues to swell as officials begin to grapple with how to reduce it.

About 195 people died of heroin overdoses in 2013, compared to 64 back in 2009 and 40 in 2007.

The figures, released Friday by Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Thomas P. Gilson, paint a sobering picture of an epidemic that the FOX 8 I-Team has been tracking for three years.

In 2011, the I-Team traveled to Portsmouth in southern Ohio for a series of reports entitled "Prescription for Disaster."

We traced the path of opiate-based pills, with names such as Oxycodone and Oxycontin, north toward Cleveland.

Cuyahoga County Drug Court Judge David Matia was one of the first officials to sound the alarm, calling the heroin problem an "epidemic" back in 2011.

Matia said there is a pathway that often starts with people taking opiates prescribed by their doctors, and then transitioning to street heroin.

"We need to question our doctors," Matia said, "and ask, 'doctor, do I really need this prescription? Does my child really need this when he gets a tooth pulled?'"

People come to addiction by treatment for regular medical conditions - and that is the real tragedy.

Last year, the number of heroin deaths was almost evenly split between the city of Cleveland and the county's suburbs.

Three-quarters of those who died, or 143 people, were men but the quarter who were women, 52 in all, represent the highest percentage of female deaths recorded so far.

There is a little good news. Thirty one people were saved by the administration of Naloxone, the heroin antidote drug.

The state legislature has recently passed a bill making it easier for families to get the antidote drug.

And more and more people, including doctors and medical institutions, are paying more and more attention to the problem.

Last month, the I-Team broadcast a series of follow-up reports entitled "Heroin Hits Home" that probed deeper into the problem and looked for solutions.

Matia said the number of opiates prescribed must come down for the deaths to come down.

"Until that flow is turned off," he said, "we're going to continue to see people die."

Click here for Bill Sheil’s ‘Heroin Hits Home’ series.

10 comments

  • Tee Brown

    My ??? ok heroin is a epidemic… So was crack how did it stop if you want to call it that by so many dying we just stoped fighting it… just check how many grandparent raised kids in the last 20yrs same thing .

    • steve

      “drugs” have an economic system all there own. Crack did not go away because “they” “the users” died off and “we” just stopped fighting it. crack started to decline in the early 2000s when heroin, and meth started to become more available. heroin and meth hit the market so fast with such abundance it became very cheap and easily accessible. it is very similar to the decline to heroin in the early 80’s when crack started its rapid rise. Also the rise and fall of heroin has a direct link to a rise and fall of a certain “government” 1980s-2000s.

  • American Horse

    How about doctors don’t prescribe oxy, Percocet, and the likes for every little bump and bruise? In the last year I had two different doctors offer me scripts for wisdom teeth being removed and for a broken finger. I threw both away without filling them. Opening the door like that to someone who is weak to begin with will start the cycle. Those drugs should be reserved for cancer patients or other serious pain issues.

  • Mariah

    To the anonymous: learn how to fucking spell anonymous. Also, the fact that you have so much ignorance makes me sick. These people are people too, not worthless. They just need help. Drug addictions are caused by a lot of mental trauma or loss or pain of any sort. You’re rediculously clueless and do some research before you say they deserve to die anyway. They have actual problems. So go fuck yourself. You’re a disgrace to humanity and you are the type of people that make me sick.

  • Bill

    Anonymouse: Aka anonymouscollegeguy???? How dare you call these people worthless!! Your hands are gonna be worthless if you don’t quit jerkin off in your mommys basement.

  • mariamante

    The government has blood on its hands. It is cheap because FEDS aren’t stopping the massive distribution of highly addictive and dangerous heroin from getting in the country. It is cheap and therefore very appealing to silly kids curious, or trying to have fun. No bueno. The governments job is to protect citizens. Heroin destroyed China, and reality is that drugs are already legal to Pharma industries who ruthlessly supply highly addictive opium FDA approved products in pill, patches, IV, and even lollipop for kids forms, and those “legal” drugs are also abused in epidemic numbers. Don’t be fooled, the “failed” war on drugs was a Soros campaign, but the fact is we didn’t have so many deadly opiates available to kids before Obama was president. Opium production in Afghanistan has unprecedented numbers. What is going on now is whack. Just this last week I read about a toddler going to day care with heroin in his jacket. The heroin being sold out of McDonalds! Opium production in Afghanistan has more than tripled under Obama. The banks are laundering Billions $, and rest assured that money is greasing a lot of palms. It can’t just be a coincidence that the same power that can record every conversation and every keystroke has no idea what is going on here.

    Soros, and the cartels, have been pushing for drug legalization, including heroin, since 1996. He (they) have spent millions and they have obviously influenced many people. I grew up in Miami in the 80’s and 90’s. There was a legitimate drug war. There is no “drug war” right now. Holder’s response to the heroin deaths is a medicine for first responders. He is in charge of the DEA!!! When I was growing up there was cocaine. Since there really was a war on drugs and shipments were seized daily, cocaine was expensive. Kids and people with limited resources didn’t have easy access to drugs. There were no deaths that I knew of, other than the narcos killing each other. I knew one addict, in my entire life, and I know a lot of people.

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