Drug overdoses skewing cardiac arrest statistics

Published: Nov. 2, 2016 at 6:25 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Parts of our region rank the highest when it comes to heart attack rates.

WSAZ is now learning those numbers might be skewed.

Sometimes drug overdoses are actually recorded as cardiac arrests.

"I think that probably a lot of cardiac arrests in West Virginia have to do with overdoses," Dave McClure with Cabell County EMS said.

McClure said that a drug overdose can lead to a cardiac arrest, but that's not always the case.

"The longer that you go without oxygen, eventually your heart will stop. Sometimes an overdose will definitely lead to cardiac arrest, but a lot of times we get there before it actually happens," McClure said.

When people call in an overdose, often times they won't say that drugs are involved. They might just say that the person isn't breathing or there is a "man down."

The dispatcher will often hear these symptoms and put them down for cardiac arrest.

In a poll that surveyed the incidence of heart attacks in 190 cities across the country, Charleston topped the list. Huntington was just a few spots behind.

Both Kanawha County Ambulance and Cabell County EMS say it's likely misreported overdoses that made the numbers spike.

In Cabell County alone, EMS has responded to 13 suspected overdoses during the month of November as of Nov. 2.

Both Cabell County EMS and Kanawha County Ambulance say the obesity problem in our region also plays a factor in the higher number of heart attacks.