EFFINGHAM — Effingham County Coroner Kim Rhodes attended the International Overdose Awareness Day event Saturday in Effingham to show her support to the family of Elizabeth Buening and others lost to drug overdoses.

Rhodes said drug overdoses seem to be reported more now than in years past.

“Social media and the 24-hour news media are constantly reporting overdose deaths,” said Rhodes. “Drugs that were prevalent years ago like cocaine and heroin have expanded to the meth crisis, and then the opioid epidemic, and then back to heroin and fentanyl.”

Rhodes said it appears the overdose cases fall into whatever the current trend for users are at any given time.

“Individuals addicted to drugs generally cannot fight the addiction on their own. They need family, friends, co-workers and professionals help to kick the habit,” she said.

Her advice is to move to a different crowd of people.

“Surround yourself with people that have a positive influence on you. Resist peer pressure and do not associate with individuals that encourage drug use.”

She added disassociating from bad habits means finding new friends, but mostly, she said addicts should never give up.

According to the National Safety Council, preventable drug-related poisoning deaths, or drug overdoses, are at an all-time high and increasing rapidly.

Across the United States in 2017, it reported 61,311 people died from preventable drug overdoses – an increase of 450 percent since 1999. These deaths represent 87 percent of the total 70,237 drug overdose deaths in the United States, which also include suicide, homicide and undetermined intents.

Over two thirds of preventable opioid overdose death victims are male — 29,772 compared to 13,264 female deaths in 2017. However, since 1999, female opioid overdose deaths have increased at a faster pace than male deaths – 939 percent for females versus 548 percent for males, according to the National Safety Council.

Rhodes said in 2017 there were seven overdose deaths from such drugs as hydrocodone, methamphetamine, heroin, acetone, fentanyl and morphine in Effingham County.

In 2018, the number of deaths jumped to 10 with the causes including aerosol, heroin, methamphetamine, fentanyl, hydrocodone and synthetic cannabis.

So far in 2019, two drug overdose deaths were the result of the opioids heroin and Loperamide.

The victims ages range from 20s to 50s, with the highest number in their 20s, Rhodes said.

She added that although the use of Narcan has been successful to reverse the effects of some overdoses, the odds are still against people who overdose on drugs.

Rhodes said the Effingham Police Department has used Narcan about seven times in the past two years. The county sheriff’s department has used it nine times in two years.

Users need to be aware that drugs they ingest might be laced with something deadly, Rhodes said.

“In today’s drug world, the user has no idea what they are putting in their body,” said Rhodes. “They do not know where the drugs come from or what they are laced with. This becomes very dangerous when you mix drugs, prescription medications and alcohol.”

Rhodes also said people visiting other people’s homes might possibly have a hidden addiction problem, so she suggests keeping pain medications out of reach and out of sight.

“You have no idea who is addicted to pain medications,” said Rhodes. “People will steal them and use them or sell them on the street. If you have unused medications that need destroyed, contact your local pharmacy, the sheriff’s department or my office for directions on how to dispose them,” she said.

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