Cuyahoga County sees rise in heroin deaths

Cuyahoga County sees rise in heroin deaths

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, OH (WOIO) - Heroin deaths in Cuyahoga County are skyrocketing, and it is more and more often a suburban problem.

The County Medical Examiner noticed an alarming increase this year.

There are huge increases, especially in the suburbs. The county is on track for 160 deaths.

"If we keep on this trajectory that represents a 300% increase," said Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Thomas P. Gilson.

50% of heroin deaths were in the suburbs, a quarter were females and three quarters white.

A recurring message is that the face of heroin abuse is changing.  It is no longer something that begins in a dark alley with a heroin needle. Now, it begins with legal prescription drugs.

"Where it's begun is the prescription drug coming through pain management," said William Denihan of Heroin Initiative

"This is a crisis, this is an epidemic going on right now, so putting a face on is really the face of your neighbor, your friends and your family," Denihan added.

When a pain prescription ends, those who've become dependant are left to find street alternatives. One rises above others.

"The heroin, the heroin, it's cheap," said Deborah, a recovering addict.

Deborah has been clean for five years, and could well be the face of heroin addiction.

"I was a nurse, I had a headache."

A co-worker gave her Percoset, it cured the headache and filled a hole.

"All my life, I just wanted somebody to tell me it's OK," Deborah said. "That's it. I just wanted somebody to hold me and tell me its gonna be OK. Drugs did that. And drugs did that."

"Law enforcement is only seizing maybe 5% of what's coming into this country," said County Sheriff Bob Reed.

Law enforcement is only part of the solution. The Initiative will also coordinate education and intervention to stem the tide.

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