Sudden deaths soar all around
ROMNEY — Fentanyl played a part in 10 of 12 overdose deaths in Hampshire County last year.
The number of ODs more than doubled from 2018’s initial report of 5 as the number of sudden deaths — not brought on by disease or natural causes — spiked by nearly double last year.
A review of 2019 death certificates on Friday showed that in addition to the 12 overdoses:
• 7 people, all older, died from falls;
• 8 died in car, motorcycle or ATV accidents;
• 4 apparent suicides occurred;
• and 1 man died when a tree fell on him and a woman choked to death.
Fentanyl is a synthetic that mimics opium-based narcotics. It’s fast-acting and 50 times more potent than morphine. A related drug, Carfentanil, is even stronger, to the tune of 10,000 times the impact of morphine.
Fentanyl was behind an overdose outbreak 3 years ago that saw the Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office investigate 9 ODs in the last 16 days of January 2017, including 5 in a 48-hour span. One person died then.
Chief Deputy Nathan Sions called the 2019 toll a growing concern.
“Fentanyl is extremely deadly and quick,” he noted.
The drug can kill within minutes, before emergency responders can arrive and inject Narcan, an antidote for opiates.
“It’s a concern for the public,” Sions said. “It’s a concern for our officers’ safety trying to handle it.”
The OD victims ranged in age from 22 to 52 and deaths occurred in all areas of the county.
The number of deaths overall spiked in the county in 2019, totaling 253 as of last Friday. That compares with 165 filed by around this time of year for 2018 and 173 for 2017.
Death certificates are filed with the County Clerk for both people who die in Hampshire County and county residents who die elsewhere.
Filing the certificates can lag the death by several months. An overdose death that occurred on Feb. 13, 2018, wasn’t filed until June 17, 2019 — 16 months after the fact.
As usual, heart disease — from heart attacks to coronary artery disease to congestive heart failure — was the county’s leading cause of death, claiming 82 lives.
All forms of cancer accounted for another 69 deaths, with lung cancer responsible for 21 alone.
Colorectal cancer caused 8 deaths, breast cancer another 6 and melanoma 5.
Death certificates show that 13 people died of dementia or other aspects of Alzheimer’s disease.
Natural causes claimed 23 lives and 12 others died of pneumonia or MRSA.