ASHLAND, Ky. (KT) – Thirty-three overdose-related deaths have been reported in Boyd County so far this year, according to a report from the county coroner.
Eighty-percent of those deaths were from individuals age 35 to 64 with the biggest age group being 35 to 44 with 11 deaths reported as of Oct. 30.
Boyd County Coroner Mark Hammond said the totals do not include some toxicology or autopsy reports still pending.
The drug epidemic ravaging northeastern Kentucky is microcosmic of the deadliest overdose crisis in U.S. history. It’s spurred by a rise in opioid abuse, and it’s a heartrending storyline with no end in sight.
Kentucky as a whole reported a record-setting number of overdose deaths in 2016 – 1,404. In contrast, 246 overdose deaths were reported in Kentucky in 2000.
Last year, 39 overdose deaths were confirmed by the Boyd coroner and that surpassed 2016’s total of 30, and fueled a calamitous trend. In 2014, the overdose death toll was 13. That number jumped to 24 in 2015.
In the history of Boyd County, more people have fatally overdosed in a single year. In 2011 – a time when the most popular street drugs were still prescription pills and “pill mills” were far more common – 42 overdose deaths were confirmed in Boyd.
Then tougher prescription drug laws were implemented, and the overdose deaths declined. Yet seven years later the death toll has surged back to nearly the same level. The venom most frequently used by overdose victims now includes synthetic opioids like fentanyl, and carfentanil. Dealers often mix the substances with heroin, meth and other drugs to create a powerful high with fatal consequences.
Boyd County had the third-highest rate of overdose deaths in 2017 among Kentucky’s 120 counties. Kenton and Campbell counties in northern Kentucky were ranked first and second.