COLUMBUS, Ga. — At least 15 people have died from drug overdoses in Columbus already this year, authorities said.

Testing is still being done on another 15 cases. That means the number of confirmed cases could more than double over the next few months, The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported.

Of the already confirmed cases, 67 percent of the overdoses were from opioid drugs — five from heroin, three from Fentanyl, one from morphine and one from Dilaudid.

Officials at the Muscogee County Adult Drug Court hope to reduce the number of deaths by equipping all Columbus first responders with the opioid overdose reversal drug Naloxone, the Columbus newspaper reported. The drug is commonly known as Narcan.

Court Coordinator Dayna Solomon said she recently applied for a $500,000 grant through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It would provide $125,000 annually over a four-year period for the county to implement the First Responder Naloxone Project, the Ledger-Enquirer reported.

The opioid situation in Columbus is “critical and chronic,” Solomon said.

“The drug court has seen at least a 40 percent increase in the number of opioid addicts that we take in,” she said. “We hear daily of an overdose, whether it’s a friend of somebody in the program, somebody in the program, somebody who knows somebody in the program, whatever the case may be.

“Not all overdoses end in death,” she said, ” … but there is definitely an abundance of overdoses, and any of those could end in death. So it’s highly serious.”

More than two million Americans are assumed to be dependent on opioids and another 95 million used prescription painkillers in the past year, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2015.

Overdoses from methamphetamine and other substances are rare, and most local overdoses are from opioids, Solomon said.

“Opioids are so easy to overdose on,” she said. “Typically, an addict’s most dangerous time is after any period of sobriety. So if you have a heroin addict who’s been clean for 30 days and they just make one not smart choice, one momentary lapse in judgment, typically that individual will use the same amount that they use to use. But they don’t understand that that amount, after 30 days of sobriety, can end their lives now.”

Some fire and emergency medical personnel in Muscogee County have Naloxone in their vehicles, Solomon said, but the law enforcement officers do not. She said the goal of the grant is to put the reversal drug in every law enforcement vehicle in the county to save lives.

Solomon said she hopes to have the funding by Oct. 1.

Information from: Columbus Ledger-Enquirer,

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