The picture above is the inside of a refrigerated truck which is temporarily serving as a morgue for the countless overdose victims who are flooding into morgues in Ohio. This has been hit especially hard by the opioid epidemic that the United States faces. This heroin epidemic was fed with the easy access to highly addictive narcotics which eventually led to heroin. From 2003 to 2015, the state saw opioid-related deaths increase by 775% or from 296 in 2003 to 2,590 in 2015. The increase in opioid-related deaths is the direct result of Purdue Pharma’s Oxycontin and the introduction of fentanyl and carfentanil onto the streets.
Last year Cincinnati saw 176 heroin overdoses in just six days, and just about every county in the state has been all but ravaged due to the widespread usage of opiate and opioid drugs.
According to a story in the Washington Post, things have gotten so bad in the state, that one county, Stark County, has actually started to employ the usage of a cold-storage trailer in order to house the overdose victims that continue to flood through the doors. Reporters for the Post talked to a Stark County coroner’s investigator, Rick Walters, about what was going, and he said that in the 40 years that he had worked in public safety, he had never seen anything like what the county was currently witnessing.
Walters went on to say that last year the coroner’s officer had to spend $75,000 on toxicology reports alone, all to verify overdose victim’s causes of death. He said that there were some months when the office would spend upwards of $10,000 and that because of this and the lack of storage space they had to rely heavily on the state for support.
In Stark County last year 1 in 5 deaths that the coroner’s office processed were drug-related, and it does not appear that the numbers are going to slow down anytime soon. To the point where using the cold-storage trailer in order to house bodies appear to be the new norm until either the facilities are upgraded or something is done in order to curb the opioid problem that has already claimed the lives of thousands of people.
Unfortunately what Stark County is experiencing is not an anomaly and many other towns and cities throughout the country are having similar problems with mounting opioid-related deaths. In 2015 33,092 people died in the US from opioid overdoses, a number that for the first time in history surpassed that of gun related deaths. Which when taking into account that only 8,280 people died in 1999 from opioid-related causes, is a staggering increase and a thoroughly upsetting statistic.
Yet, with the upheaval currently going on in Washington, stories like this one have been all but forgotten. We started to finally talk about the opioid problem in this country mid-year last year when it became apparent that what we were facing as a nation was serious. For the first time in my life, politicians and the news media alike started to take the drug problem in this country seriously, and they started to address the underlying issues that lead to addiction, rather than lambasting and criminalizing the addict. But now, it appears that much of the widespread media that this issue was getting has all but gone away and unfortunately without our attention, things like needing to use cold-storage trailers will become increasingly more necessary.
It is important for us to remember that each one of those 33,092 people that died in 2015 and every one of the individuals now sitting in cold-storage outside of the Stark County Coroner’s Office were once living breathing human beings. They were once someone’s daughter or son; someone’s brother or sister, and that although we lump them together in numbers and quantify those statistics, they were people who needed help because of the disease that they suffered from. They needed help that they may not have had access to, due to the nature of politics in this country, and they needed help that addicts very often do not get.
While I do not wish to grandstand on top of Stark County’s problems, I think it is important for us to continue, as recovered people, to ensure that stories like this see the light of day, and get the sort of attention they deserve. I believe it is important that we hail against changes to healthcare that would negatively impact the lives of millions of addicts, and I believe it is important that we spread the knowledge we have about recovery, as far and wide as we possibly can; because if we can reach just one person then it is all worth it.
As ugly as drug addiction can be to witness, it is not a problem that will go away simply by our wishing it would. Since getting the trailer from the state, the small county of Stark has already seen 6 more opioid-related deaths, and there will, unfortunately, be more to come if we do not act as a country to help end this problem.
Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.