LORAIN—Hundreds, if not thousands of needles were found at a Lorain home where two men died from an opioid overdose this week, according to a news release from the Lorain Police Department.
On April 3, police responded to a home at 114 West 26th Street and found two men with no obvious signs of life laying on a tattered mattress on the floor in the living room.
An EMS worker said both men showed no signs of life and estimated both of them had been dead for a couple of hours, the police report stated.
#Lorain police release pics from inside home where investigators say 2 men died of opioid overdoses this week. Police say home filled with 100’s if not 1,000’s of needles. @WEWS pic.twitter.com/0lodXMTzxl
— Scott Noll (@ScottNoll_News) April 5, 2019
The girlfriend of one of the deceased men said she called her boyfriend’s phone and when he didn’t answer, she went over to the abandoned home because it was one of “his favorite places to visit,” the report states.
The girlfriend said when she arrived, the door was locked, so she climbed through the broken basement window and found her boyfriend and the second man.
Authorities found hundreds or perhaps thousands of hypodermic needles. According to police, it appeared the house had been on fire at some point because of the smell of smoke and the upstairs carpet was saturated with moisture.
The home had no running water so the upstairs bathroom was overflowing with feces, the report said.
— ABC15 Arizona (@abc15) April 5, 2019
Police say the abandoned home is frequently used by drug users. The home appeared to be in deplorable condition, with rotting floors and a broken foundation. The home poses a major health and safety hazard. It’s a risk for authorities who may have to enter the home again if they need to respond to another incident like the one mentioned above, police said. The home was also a site for illegal dumping.
The Lorain Police Department encourages residents to report activity in abandoned buildings and prevent children from playing in and around these homes.
The explosion of opioid abuse behind the overdose epidemic is commonly linked to the 1995 release of OxyContin by Purdue Pharma. The company marketed the drug as a low-risk pain pill that won’t make patients develop an addiction, because it releases the opioid, oxycodone, gradually.
It didn’t take long for people to figure out that it only took crushing the pill to release all its euphoric effect at once. Many people who were initially prescribed oxycodone or other opioid painkillers like hydrocodone or oxymorphone kept using the drugs even after their pain disappeared and developing an addiction. Aside from the psychological addiction, opioids also induce a physical one, making withdrawal all the more difficult when they try to quit.
In 2007, Purdue pleaded guilty to illegally misleading physicians about the risks of OxyContin and agreed to pay a $600 million settlement. Several Purdue executives paid settlements too, but none went to prison.
It may be too simplistic to blame the start of the epidemic solely on Purdue though. The increase in opioid prescriptions began in the 1980s when some medical professionals argued for more liberal use of opioids to manage pain (pdf).
It 2010, Purdue released a version of the pill that is hard to crush, making it unattractive for abuse. By then, however, the millions addicted to the drug (pdf) already appeared to have switched to heroin, which was flooding in through the southern border. On the black market, heroin was actually cheaper than the prescription pills.
By around 2013, synthetic opioids, prominently fentanyl, took off. Fentanyl poses a high risk of overdose due to its potency—it’s about 50-100 times stronger than morphine, according to CDC. Much of it originates from China and is smuggled to the United States either directly by mail or through Mexico, where it could be mixed with heroin. While heroin and prescription opioid overdoses appear to have declined in recent months, fentanyl-related overdoses continue to climb, albeit at a slower pace.
The opioid epidemic has prompted nationwide efforts to improve addiction prevention and treatment and overdose prevention as well as overhaul the approach to managing pain.
President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency in 2017 and directed all federal agencies to find ways to counter it.
In Oct. 2018, Congress nearly unanimously passed a $6 billion bill to fight the crisis. The bill authorizes, among other things, increased education and awareness campaigns, setting up recovery centers, assistance to hospitals on using painkiller alternatives to opioids, and training doctors on how to administer medication like methadone that can help people overcome opioid addiction.
The bill also seeks to prevent “doctor shopping” by requiring prescriptions for some controlled substances to go through electronic programs and includes a measure that will make it easier for law enforcement to crack down on kickbacks in the addiction-recovery business.
“Together we are going to end the scourge of drug addiction in America,” Trump said before signing the bill on Oct. 25. “We are going to end it, or we are going to at least going to make an extremely big dent in this terrible, terrible problem.”
In addition, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced a new initiative in October to help addicted mothers and their babies on Medicaid. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will distribute some $65 million in grants to up to 12 states to pay for health services including medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, maternity care, and certain primary care services.
Azar also called for a more holistic approach to managing pain, such as using alternative treatments like physical therapy and nutrition. To this end, Medicare Advantage plans will be allowed to pay for therapeutic massage starting next year.