While the president was declaring the opioid crisis in the United States a public health emergency last month, Bloomington-Normal was battling its own opioid epidemic.
McLean Coroner Kathy Davis said Thursday there were 10 opioid-related deaths in October. That brings this year's total overdose death toll to 33, more than double the total for 2016, plus five other drug-related deaths.
Davis said this latest group of deaths involve a concentrated painkiller called fentanyl, which is considered 50 times more potent than heroin. She said street drugs cut with fentanyl are so strong they can kill someone with only one use.
“These are powerful, deadly, deadly drugs that are out there,” Davis said. “It’s not (like) back in the day where you could try marijuana (and) see how you felt. These are drugs that the first time out, a novice user can literally die that evening.”
Davis said some of the October deaths involved known addicts, but others came as complete surprises. And for those who don’t overdose, the road to recovery is a long one.
“Someone had said to me that the first time they do heroin, it’s like holding the hand of God,” Davis said. “I mean, how profound is that feeling, to be that euphoric? So then you chase the dragon, if you will. You always chase that demon. It changes your brain. Even to wean these people off can take a while for the brain chemicals to change.”
Twenty-six of the 33 overdose deaths this year have been opioid related.
The deaths have prompted the McLean County Bar Association and the U.S. attorney's office for the Central District of Illinois to co-sponsor a summit Nov. 14 focused on heroin addiction and opioid abuse.
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