Opioid Epidemic Surges in Dougherty County

Opioid Epidemic: A Silent Killer

ALBANY, GA – The Opioid epidemic has claimed many lives throughout our communities…In Dougherty county, those tiny pills are continuing to prove how big of a monster they truly are…

“We are experiencing an Opioid situation here. It has progressively gotten worse since 2017,” said Sam Allen, Dougherty County’s EMS Director.

In 2022, 29 people died from an Opioid overdose in Dougherty county with 7 autopsies still pending. And, there has been 1 confirmed overdose death and 5 pending just this year alone.

Last year, Opioids claimed over 108,000 lives in the United States.

But, how did a drug originally designed to help with pain, end up causing more?

“Previously, when you went to the doctor you filled out a form and selected a smiley or sad face to determine scale of pain. That’s when a physician would prescribe you pain medication. Well…as it turns out with Opioids, you can get addicted in just 3-5 days,” said Allen.

Then, when doctors would no longer provide their patients prescriptions…

“They’ve got an addiction. So, at that point they turn to street drugs, which turns to Heroin, which turns into Fentanyl as we’re experiencing now,” said Allen.

The most common Opioid prescriptions linked to addiction and overdose include: Oxycontin, Demerol, Hydrocodone, Morphine, and Percocet and the most common now, Fentanyl.

Allen said these drugs are known as a “silent killer” because many cannot feel when their body has had enough, because the drug is designed to mask pain and increase pleasure.

“The problem is, once they get that initial high, they will never get that same level again. So, the danger is they’re taking more and more of the Opioids. It effects their respiratory drive which can lead to respiratory arrest. They’re breathing 2 to 3 times per minute. The average person breathes 12 to 16 times per minute,” said Allen.

Dougherty County EMS responded to over 23,000 total calls last year.

Narcan, the drug which reverses the effects of an overdose, had to be administered to 270 patients last year, and 40 times already since January first.

On your screen is a map of the places in Dougherty County where EMS had to administer Narcan.

The most common places EMS had to administer Narcan were Slappey Boulevard all the way to Lee County, with an age range from 24 to 65.

But, Allen said it can affect everyone…anywhere including children.

“You have people that get into their grandparents’ pain medication, parents’ medication, or brothers’ and sisters’. It’s in every household, and can be exposed at any level,” said Allen.

To educate young people on this crisis, Dougherty County EMS and other law enforcement officials are hosting a reenactment event on March 23rd.

“What we do is…we do a mock situation where some people take Opioids, Heroin, Fentanyl, and they become unresponsive, they quit breathing, we call the ambulance, you see the police car roll in, the ambulance, coroner, crime scene tape goes up, medics performing life saving measures on scene. We want students to understand just how dangerous Opioids are. If they see it firsthand, then hopefully we will make an impact,” said Allen.

If you know someone you know is struggling , it is important to know there is help, and local resources are available.

Copyright 2023 CBS 44 South Georgia. All Rights Reserved.