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The Opioid Epidemic In The Mid-South: How Bad Is It?

By Clip Syndicate
The opioid epidemic is grabbing headlines. From Shelby County suing pharmaceutical companies to Donald Trump declaring the problem a health emergency.

http://eplayer.clipsyndicate.com/view/12493/7180460 Video: The Opioid Epidemic In The Mid-South: How Bad Is It?
The opioid epidemic is grabbing headlines. From Shelby County suing pharmaceutical companies to Donald Trump declaring the problem a health emergency.
http://chic.clipsyndicate.com/video/playlist/12493/7180460?cpt=8&wpid=2637 Mon, 20 Nov 2017 04:04:48 +0000 The Opioid Epidemic In The Mid-South: How Bad Is It? The opioid epidemic is grabbing headlines. From Shelby County suing pharmaceutical companies to Donald Trump declaring the problem a health emergency. http://chic.clipsyndicate.com/video/playlist/12493/7180460?cpt=8&wpid=2637 WATN mary jo: good evening and thanks for joining us i'm mary jo ola. you often hear about memphis' high homicide rate....but the rate at which people are dying from overdosing on opioids is just as alarming. the opioid epidemic is grabbing headlines. from shelby county suing pharmaceutical companies to donald trump declaring the problem a health emergency. so how bad is it? local i-team senior investigator jeni diprizio breaks down the numbers. jeni diprizio/reporting: according to the west tennessee forensic center in downtown memphis....the number of people dying from opioid overdoses has skyrocketed. medical experts will tell you ....addiction to opioids often begins with getting hooked on prescription pain killers like oxycontin....then escalates to illegal opioids like heroin. the result...in our area ...just as many people are dying from opioid overdoses .... as they are being murdered on the streets." cassie milam/gabriesheski's aunt: "how many more do we have to lose. young people, old people. whoever." <kristen mitchell/ brennan rucker's mother: "it just doesn't make sense at all." families members of those who've died from opioid overdoses know all too well...how bad the epidemic is... paul hagerman/shelby county prosecutor: "it's almost like rolling the dice on whether you are going to live or die." prosecutors..... see it everyday. so do those who work at the west tennessee regional forensic center. pathologists who perform autopsies here are doing an additional 200 a year. <dr. benjamin figura/wtrfc director: "it's kind of the new normal right now. for the last few years this increase caseload that's due in part a lot to opioid deaths." dr ben figura says the number of homicides and the number of opioid overdose deaths in shelby county are running about even this year.. according to the most recent report put out by the office: in 2015 ...170 people were murdered in shelby county. that same year, 196 people died from overdoses...the vast majority after taking opioids. since 2010... heroin deaths in shelby county are up 600 percent. fentanyl deaths are up 500 percent. oxycodone and hydrocodone...also round out the top fatal drug overdoses those are all opioids. and get this...those figures are likely low. pathologists suspect the number of overdoses are under reported. one reason? victims may have multiple drugs or alcohol in their system. dr benjaim figura/wtrfc director: "often times theres so much in there, they are not able to pin point one or the other... they can just say it's the combined effect or it's all of these contributed to the individual's death." that can make it difficult for prosecutors to hold drug dealers accountable for the deaths. paul hagerman/prosecut or: "these are not easy cases to make. we have to prove that not only, that the controlled substance on its own caused the individual's death. that becomes a medical question. that isn't always clear. but but we also have to prove the person provided this particular heroin or this particular fentanyl to the user." the shelby county district attorney's office has about a dozen pending murder cases against opioid dealers. and if murder can't be proven...they are finding other ways to put dealers behind bars. for example ... marco billington was sentenced to 30 years in prison....for dealing. prosecutors say billington sold drugs to several people who overdosed and died. but without the medical proof....they instead built a drug dealing case against him. paul hagerman/prosecut or: "this isn't a war against drug addicts. this is a war against the people that provide these drugs." jeni: prosecutors tell me even more people would be dying from opiods every week in shelby county, if first responders weren't armed with a life-saving drug called narcan, which can quickly counteract an overdose. mary





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