Preliminary estimates of the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office show that 158 residents died from presumed drug overdoses during the first 10 months of 2017, a new report said.

That’s 99 fewer drug overdose deaths during the same period in 2016 when the synthetic opioid carfentanil — often used as an elephant tranquilizer — first hit Greater Akron’s street-drug trade.

Summit County Public Health released the numbers Friday as part of a statistical report that doesn’t speculate on what prompted the decline or whether the trend might continue.

Yet even with the drop in overdose deaths, the report makes clear that the nationwide opiate crisis continues its firm grip on Summit County.

The report tracked overdose deaths for the first 10 months and all overdoses January through November.

Nearly 2,200 Summit County residents sought help in hospital emergency rooms after overdosing during the first 11 months of 2017, the report said.

The heaviest concentration of residents who sought help for overdoses live in a swath of Summit County stretching west from Barberton, through southern Akron, Springfield Township and Lakemore and curving north into Akron’s Chapel Hill and North Hill neighborhoods.

That hasn’t changed since 2016.

But people living in suburbs north of Akron showed the largest increase in ER treatment for overdoses between January and November.

The 44264 ZIP code, an area around Peninsula, recorded the biggest percentage increase in Summit County, the report said. But because the number of overdoses was so small — less than 20 — the data might not accurately reflect a trend, the report cautioned.

Northfield and Stow, however, recorded a clear spike. Northfield’s numbers soared by 33 percent, followed by Stow, with 22 percent.

Akron’s 44303 ZIP code —which begins just north of Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens and stretches south along Merriman Road through Highland Square and into downtown Akron — saw a 15 percent increase, the report shows.

Countywide, overdoses during the first 11 months of 2017 peaked in late March at about 10 per day, according to Summit County Public Health.

Beginning the third week of October, overdoses began a sustained decline, dropping from 6.9 per day on Oct. 28 to a low of 3.4 on Nov. 15, and then slowly growing again to 4.4 per day by Nov. 30.

During this time, men accounted for 61 percent of the overdoses. Most men and women in Summit County who sought ER help — 68 percent — were 25 to 49 years old, the report said. The Summit County Public Health report examining the first 11 months of drug overdoses this year is part of a daily tracking officials do to identify trends, spikes and lulls during the opiate crisis.

The numbers have many caveats.

The final tally of how many Summit County residents died from overdoses this year will likely take months, for example, because medical examiners across the state are overburdened by the opiate crisis, the report said.

The report also doesn’t include people who overdose at home and never seek ER treatment after friends or family revive them with naloxone.

Law enforcement, meanwhile, is trying to stop an unending flow of opiates into the state.

This week in Northeast Ohio, federal agents raided several car dealers and repair shops throughout as part of Operation Snow Globe, an investigation into two drug rings accused of selling fentanyl, heroin other drugs. Twenty-six people face charges.

The drugs came into Northeast Ohio from California to China.

Prosecutors in Franklin County also said this week that investigators there seized enough of the synthetic opioid fentanyl in November to kill nearly everyone in Ohio.

Various news outlets reported that police found 20 pounds of pure fentanyl in one Columbus stash. Fentanyl is less powerful that carfentanil, yet it only takes the equivalent of 5 or 6 grains of salt to be lethal.

Also this week, Ohio awarded the University of Akron $2 million “to commercialize a degradable mesh for surgical use that releases a local anesthetic in place of oral opioids for managing post-operative pain.”

The money is part of $20 million the state has set aside to spur innovation and development of products at businesses and universities that would prevent and treat addiction.

Others affected by the opioid crisis are looking for more immediate solutions to the fallout.

Earlier this year, Kent police warned parents to be wary after finding blood and a powdery substance on a baby-changing station inside a gas station bathroom. Potentially lethal opiates can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled.

Gas stations across the country have struggled to keep people from getting high in public restrooms.

This week, the Sheetz gas station chain said it had installed blue lights in some of its public restrooms. The idea is that addicts might avoid the restroom because the blue light would make it too difficult for them to see their veins and inject drugs.

Some praised the effort, but Beacon Journal partner News 5 Cleveland reported that some recovered addicts doubted the lights will work.

“You can blindfold me,” Bo Dudley told the television station, “and I’m going to find [a vein], it doesn’t matter.”

Amanda Garrett can be reached at 330-996-3725 or agarrett@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @agarrettABJ