Madison County breaks record for opioid-related deaths

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EDWARDSVILLE, IL – A tragic and disturbing record has been broken tonight in the metro-east—more people have died this year from drug overdoses in Madison County than ever before.

And the vast majority of those deaths are opioid-related.

Madison County Coroner Steve Nonn calls overdose deaths from opioids a problem that has reached epidemic levels in Madison County and across the country.

He says the crisis is hitting everywhere in Madison County and the main culprit is fentanyl.

Nonn tells us so far in 2018, 92 people in Madison County have died from drug overdoses–most all opioid-related.

That number surpasses the old record of 91 back in 2014.

Nonn says he expects the number of overdose deaths to top 100 by the time this year is done.

“You`re sending one investigator out of the office on a death and then an hour later you`re sending another investigator to another death,” said Nonn.

Nonn says the problem is hitting men and women alike in Madison County…mostly between 26 and 55 years old.

He tells us since 2016 fentanyl has become an increasing factor in overdose deaths.

Nonn says there are two reasons behind that—fentanyl is powerful and profitable.

“You can make 500,000 pills from one kilogram of pure fentanyl that you can get from China- 500,000 pills that you can sell for $10 a pill…There`s a lot of heroin addicts that think they`re taking heroin when they`re actually taking fentanyl. The problem there is it`s 80 to 100 times more powerful than heroin.”

Nicole Browning with the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse in Olivette isn`t surprised by the Madison County numbers.

But she is troubled by the trend that they represent.

She tells us 84% of the fatal drug overdoses last year in St. Louis city and county involved fentanyl.

She says fighting the overdose epidemic is very challenging.

Browning told us, “There`s a lot of efforts out there. We`re doing as much work as we can on all sides of this issue. But it`s a big problem to tackle.”

Nonn says he is combatting overdoses on three levels—education, enforcement, and treatment.

“I do firmly believe that we will get on top of this but it`s going to take another couple of years,” says Nonn.

Nonn says about half of his $240,000 annual medical budget is used for overdose death investigations.

He hopes his three-pronged approach to fighting the problem will eventually pay off with a significant reduction in overdose deaths.

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