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Local heroin overdose deaths on rise; Fentanyl now a big killer

In Lucas County, heroin-related deaths are expected to go higher and there's something even more powerful that's taking lives.

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - In Lucas County, heroin-related deaths are expected to go higher. But there is something even more powerful that's taking lives.

In 2010, there were only eight heroin-related deaths in a 21-county area, but now it's in the hundreds. The blame is being put on heroin and a similar drug called Fentanyl.

The forensic pathologists at the Lucas County Coroner's Office do autopsies on overdose victims. But it's up to Chief Toxicologist Dr. Bob Forney to figure out what was in their system.

"Oh it's horrible.This is horrible," said Dr. Forney.

Dr. Forney is still finalizing the heroin-related overdose deaths from 2016, but the first six months show 127 deaths in the 21-county area. He's projecting the annual total to be 254. But he said that might be too low a prediction.

"These are otherwise healthy people. I mean they're not healthy in the sense that they're addicts but they're young, vibrant sort of people," said Dr. Forney.

Dr. Forney says the crisis took a turn this past August. A shift happened, from mostly heroin overdose deaths to the synthetic opiate Fentanyl.

Expecting heroin, many users don't even know what hit them.

"It is never pure drug. It's always, it is always a combination. You analyze powder and there will be five drugs in there. There may be heroin and Fentanyl and Benadryl and you know something else," said Dr. Forney.

The 2016 toxicology reports also show 80 percent of heroin-related overdose deaths were men and 92 percent were white. The average age was 48 for men and 47 for women.

"You're either going to end up in jail or dead. Or the third choice is get help," said Dr. Forney.

He also says Carfentanyl also burst on the scene in 2016. It's an elephant tranquilizer but when abused, it's unimaginably potent and deadly.