Scioto County Leads Ohio in Opiate Prescription Pill Deaths

UPDATE 5/1/13 @ 9:50 p.m.
PORTSMOUTH, Ohio (WSAZ) -- On any given day, you can hear the file drawers of the Portsmouth City Health Department opening so new syringes can be passed out.

The health department, has a needle exchange program to help cut down the risk of death, HIV and hepatitis for intravenous drug users.

Opiate deaths in Scioto County are the highest in the state of Ohio -- with 25 documented in 2011. The big problem is prescription drugs,
but as House Bill 93 cracks down on pills mills, there's a growing problem of heroin addiction.

"I don't even do it to get high anymore," said one young mom of two who spoke with "I do it so I don't get sick. It's just awful. I want to stop, but it's difficult. I've lost many family and friends over this; I know it's a problem."

The Portsmouth City Health Department believes the numbers coming out of Columbus this week don't tell the whole story. The latest statistics
are from 2011, but the city and county have made great strides in helping addicts.

"House Bill 93 has been invaluable," says Lisa Roberts, who's a nurse with the health department. "It's a known fact that two million fewer prescription pills were prescribed in this county in the last year. We're making strides."

PORTSMOUTH, Ohio (WSAZ) -- In 2010, four Ohioans died of an unintentional drug overdose every day of the year.

In Portsmouth, the health department is spearheading a statewide pilot program to help prevent accidental opiate deaths.

The key is in a nasal spray.

"Eighty-seven percent of the time in Scioto County, the people who died of a fatal overdose had someone with them who witnessed it," said Lisa Roberts with the Portsmouth City Health Department. "In rural counties, it takes a very long time for the ambulance to get there -- about 20 minutes, so in that time, it's too late."

The pilot program is called PROJECT DAWN (Deaths Avoided Without Naloxone). It's named in honor a local woman who died of a drug overdose two years ago.

The drug, being administered in the nasal spray, is Naloxone, according to literature passed out by the health department:

Naloxone is a liquid prescription medication that works to reverse an overdose caused by an opiate drug. It works by removing the drug from the receptors in the brain and, therefore, eliminates the effects of the opiate drug, including life threatening symptoms such as respiratory suppression.

It has no potential for abuse and no other usage except for opiate receptor blocking in the brain.

If it works, there should be a noticeable improvement in the drug user within two to five minutes.

The Portsmouth City Health Department hopes to have 100 kits available starting in mid-April.

"These kits will be able to be put together for about $25," Roberts said. "So for $25 a life could be saved. A funeral costs $10,000."

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