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For 2007 and 2008, Whitley County had a total of 15 deaths from overdoses of prescription medication.
In just the first nine months of this year, the county was already passed that mark with 17 deaths from prescription medication overdoses.
“We’re in a public health epidemic,” Whitley County Coroner Scott Smith said.
Seventeen is just the number of people who died so far this year in Whitley County from overdoses — it doesn’t include how many were transferred to Allen County and died there.
There’s no profile for those who die from overdoses.
People from 17 to 79 years old are on the list and the problem covers all demographics and economic statuses.
Officers with the Whitley County Drug Task Force said when they arrest someone for possession of a narcotic, they may or may not find prescription drugs as well.
In this year’s investigations, all those who died from taking too much of one drug or combining drugs had legal prescriptions, but in years past, police and Smith have found people who overdosed on medication they bought illegally.
The top four killers in Whitley County are methadone, fentanyl, oxycodone and alprazolam.
In nearly every death, the victims had at least twice the recommended therapeutic levels of the drug in their systems.
For the cases where the medication was legally prescribed and possessed, chances are the drugs were not taken properly.
“There isn’t a pill for everything they feel,” Scott said of ailments often treated with prescriptions that may not need it.
The result is the same though whether it’s intentional misuse of the drug or a lapse in memory of a previous dose that results in more of a drug being taken.
When it comes to problems with remembering doses, Smith recommends the containers with each day of the week on them so people don’t take too many meds.
But, how do people continue to get so many prescriptions that may not be needed?
Once addicted to some of the top killers, people will do what it takes to get more of the drug with a prescription than pay an incredibly high price from a dealer or someone else with a prescription.
“They do find ways to doctor shop, even though there are precautions in place,” Smith said.
There will still likely be at least one overdose death before the end of the year, especially as the holidays approach and people may double-up on anxiety medicine or other prescriptions to deal with the stress.
For many of the most deadly prescription drugs, one pill can be the difference between an effective dose and a deadly one.
It all comes down to how the people take them and if they don’t share them with those who don’t need them.
“It’s completely preventable,” Smith said.