Nearly 90 percent of all overdose deaths in Lucas County in 2020 were caused by the lethal drug.

TALEDA, Ohio – He may have been lost in the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, but he never disappeared.

When it comes to the opioid epidemic, synthetic opioids fentanyl it is a killer that destroys families.

“I was saying when will you reach the bottom? When will you reach the bottom? ”

Peggy Montgomery watched daily as her son Dustin Dust struggled with drug addiction.

Dustin was fascinated by this, sobered up again, and then fell back into dangerous habits.

“Finally I said you use. He cried, and I cried, and he said, “Yes, I do.” I said, ‘Well, what do you use?’ And I never thought I would hear the word heroin. It was like someone hit me in the heart, ”Peggy said.

Dustin agreed to go to rehab in Florida, and Peggy felt better. He even returned to Ohio.

But on January 26, 2018, early in the morning, Peggy heard her husband’s phone ring.

She replied, but her eldest son Donavan received serious news that he did not want to tell his mother.

“I said, ‘Is this Dustin?'” Montgomery said. “He said, ‘Mom, please let me talk to Rex.’

“Just tell me,” she asked again, “is Dustin?”

When her son said yes, he called about Dustin, Montgomery asked, “Just tell him he’s okay.”

“I can’t tell you that,” Donavan said.

“Just tell him he didn’t die!” She asked.

Dustin was found dead at his home in Port Clinton at the age of just 35 from an overdose of something much stronger than heroin. It was fentanyl.

“And I just dropped my husband’s phone and just fell apart. And just cried and cried. I couldn’t believe it. “

Frequent overdose statistics

Montgomery is not alone in his grief over the loss of a loved one.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control may the National Center for Health Prevention Statistics released data in March showing that annual deaths from drug overdoses have reached another record high.

It says that between October 2020 and October 2021, 105,752 people died, and two-thirds of those deaths were from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.

The suspicion of a drug overdose in Lucas County comes to Robin Shinaver, acting director of the Coroner’s Toxicology Laboratory.

She and her staff determine which drugs were in someone’s body and which caused their death.

Fentanyl is the biggest criminal now, by and large.

“And the cases that come through it are so incredibly heartbreaking. Because no one is spared,” Shinaver said.

According to a national trend, the number of fentanyl-related deaths is also rising in Lucas County. Figures from the Ohio Department of Health show that in 2014 there were 23 deaths from fentanyl.

In 2015, there were 39 deaths.

In 2016, he jumped to 99.

But the number of deaths from fentanyl continued to rise, to 108 in 2017. And 138 in 2018. And then a huge increase to 192 deaths in 2019.

Digging into the 2020 figures, according to information we received from the Toledo-Lucas County Department of Health, the number of fentanyl deaths has increased significantly to 273.

This accounted for 89 percent of total overdose deaths since 2020.

In 2021, the county health department said 106 of the 132 deaths from overdoses from January to June were from fentanyl.

Now this is the biggest evil of drug overdose.

“The user is looking for fentanyl and he is looking for the best fentanyl.” Said Shinaver.

Asked if people use fentanyl, even if they know it can kill them, she replied: “Absolutely. And that’s part of the addiction. And that’s the sad part of the addiction.”

In Butler County, southwestern Ohio, the population is similar to that of Lucas County. There is also a growing mortality from fentanyl. In 2019, there were 129 fentanyl-related deaths. In 2020, up to 155 people died. The death toll has dropped to 149 in 2021, but this year they are going at a rate of further growth.

“Unfortunately, it looks like it will continue until the end of the year. We saw no reason to think it would lead to a reduction,” said Martin Schneider, administrator of the Butler County Coroner’s Office, Ohio.

In York County, Pennsylvania, which also has a population similar to Lucas County, in 2019, 114 deaths from fentanyl were recorded at the Coroner’s office.

The number of deaths has increased significantly to 185 in 2020.

But in 2021 there was a drop to 113 deaths from fentanyl overdose.

Preventing tragedy

Schneider of Butler County said Ohio counties should work together to prevent fentanyl from entering the streets.

And in the county’s toxicology lab, Lucas Shinaver said county leaders should better inform the public about the dangers of fentanyl and continue to work with police and recovery centers to slow the tragedy.

“Your life is much, much more precious than this momentary buzz. And please ask for help,” Shinaver said.

Peggy Montgomery is still grieving Dustin’s death, but doesn’t let her pain stop her from helping others.

She works at Arrowhead Behavioral Health in Maumi, a treatment center that works every day to help people overcome drug addiction.

She said the key is to find more drug addicts, and she is seeking more education on how deadly fentanyl is so that other moms don’t get this scary phone call.

But she also feels guilty, despite having worked for years to get Dustin sober.

“I didn’t fix it. I had to protect it and fix it, and I couldn’t fix it. ”

If you or loved ones need help with addiction, naloxone can be obtained free of charge from the Toledo-Lucas County Department of Health.

And you can learn about local treatment options by calling the Lucas County CARES line at 419-904-CARE.

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