Lee Co. Coroner alarmed at increase of overdoses

Lee Co. Coroner alarmed at increase of overdoses

LEE COUNTY, AL (WTVM) - Lee County Coroner Bill Harris says he's alarmed at the number of people dying due to accidental drug overdoses in Lee County.

He said the number of deaths have nearly doubled this year compared to last year.

Law enforcement officers says this is an increasing problem all over the state. It's grabbed the attention of U.S Attorneys and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.

Both agencies are reaching out to coroners across the state and asking them to compile data related to overdose deaths to get a better forecast on what's happening and how they may be able to fight it.

Harris is compiling stats on Lee County overdoses for the state wide risk assessment report and says the victims' ages vary from early 20's to late 60's. Most are accidental overdoses, not intentional, and involve multiple drugs.

"I am alarmed, in fact I was invited to a meeting with the US Attorney's Office, it's not just a local problem, it's a statewide problem," said Harris.

Sheriff Jay Jones says along with prescription overdoses, the county is bracing for heroin-related deaths. He says the drug has already made a deadly comeback in larger cities like Birmingham and is quickly seeping into smaller communities.

"It' s a very frightening issue particularly with heroin being such a powerful drug," said Sheriff Jones.

Sheriff Jones says heroin is cheaper and stronger than ever, making it a recipe for an overdose.  Because it's imported, the state can't enact laws to control the ingredients used to make heroin, like they did with methamphetamine.

"Stale laws worked with meth, they worked well.  But, with heroin, it's an opient and it's not manufactured locally," he said.

Sheriff Jones says youth education is key and his school resource officers are working in classrooms, warning students and parents.

"One thing I think is particularly concerning to all law enforcement, and it should be to everyone in our community, is that young individuals is where we are starting to see the usage," he said.

Harris expects to have exact numbers of prescription pill overdoes at the end of the week, which will be made public.

In the meanwhile, you can help by locking your medicine cabinets and disposing of old pills. Also, stick to one doctor who knows your prescription history.

Finally, if you or someone you know has a hard time remembering what medications to take and when, ask for help or at the very least get a plastic pill organizer and use it.

The Lee County Sheriff's Office says so far they have not seen a heroin overdose death, but unfortunately say it's only a matter of time.

Parents, warning symptoms of heroin use include: shortness of breath, dry mouth, small pupils, sudden changes in behavior, disorientation, hyper alertness followed by nodding off and a droopy appearance.

Copyright WTVM 2015. All rights reserved.