Five people have died and several others have nearly overdosed from what police say appears to be a “bad batch” of heroin being sold around Akron.
On Tuesday, two men — a 31-year-old from Schiller Avenue in Akron and a 58-year-old visiting from Largo, Fla. — were found dead.
Three other heroin-related deaths have been reported in Akron in the last two weeks. All five victims are men.
Police issued a warning Wednesday afternoon telling “illicit drug users not to take heroin which they procured over the past few weeks.”
Summit County Medical Examiner Dr. Lisa Kohler has been reviewing four years worth of data that shows a steady stream of heroin and opiate-related deaths. The trend is consistent with what has been labeled a national epidemic.
The county reported 41 heroin deaths in 2013. There were 45 the previous year. Figures for this year have yet to be calculated because of pending toxicology testing.
“Every week we’re getting multiple suspected heroin overdoses and it’s coming through at a pretty regular rate,” Kohler said. “And it seems to be higher than it has been in the past.”
The latest available records statewide show a record number of Ohioans died from heroin-related overdoses in 2012. According to the state, 680 people died of heroin overdoses in 2012, up from 426 deaths in 2011, a 60 percent increase.
Just last month, the city of Akron announced a massive media campaign geared toward stemming the heroin trade and use. Billboards, newspaper ads and radio spots have been used since early May in an effort to combat heroin use.
Police Lt. Rick Edwards said detectives are unsure what’s causing the recent rash of heroin-related deaths. They speculate a deadly ingredient was added to the heroin or that the heroin is nearly pure and extremely potent.
They base their speculation on the evidence found with the bodies: heroin and hypodermic needles. In other cases, Akron Fire Department paramedics have recently rescued several residents in the throes of an overdose, police said.
Edwards said the department believes it is important to notify the community.
“We can’t stop these people. When you’re on heroin, it’s hard to stop cold turkey. We’re just trying to give people a heads up that the heroin in Akron may be mixed with something,” he said.
For those in need of aid, call the Summit County ADM Crisis Center at 330-996-7730.
Anyone with information about drug trafficking is asked to contact Akron police at 330-375-2490.
Information may also be provided anonymously by calling Summit County Crimestoppers at 330-434-COPS(2677) or by texting TIPSCO plus the tip to 274637. Tipsters may qualify for a cash reward.