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Overdose deaths continue record climb; opioids to blame

By David Mattingly Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 6:03 PM EST

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A record number of people in the United States are dying of drug overdoses.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) count more than 100,000 overdose deaths nationwide, a 28.5 percent increase over the previous year.

Overdose deaths in Kentucky during the same year increased by nearly double the national rate.

“Last year, we did 604 overdose deaths,” Jefferson County Chief Deputy Coroner Scott Russ said. “And we’re on pace to probably do close to 600 again this year.”

That figure is almost double the county’s number from 2015. Russ said 85 percent were fentanyl overdoses and the coroner’s office is seeing about 50 overdose deaths a month.

“The drugs are coming from other countries, from this country,” Russ said. “The vast majority of the overdoses we had last year, 75 percent or 85 percent even probably more were from fentanyl overdoses. They think they’re buying heroin, they think they’re buying meth, but it’s either straight fentanyl or at least cut with enough fentanyl it’s causing them to pass away.”

One of the people who died from such an overdose was Julie Hofmans’ son, Wyatt.

“This beautiful child died of a choice he made,” Hofmans said. “You know, he took that pill and it was over.”

23-year-old Wyatt took what he thought was an unprescribed Xanax, not knowing it was laced with fentanyl. He is one on a list of hundreds, just in the Louisville Metro, lost to synthetic opioids in a single year.

Hofmans speaks out nationally about the dangers of fentanyl in a video posted to YouTube by the Drug Enforcement Agency.

She described the shock of suddenly losing her son and the pain that followed.

“Basically the minute we went in the (emergency) room and I saw Wyatt,” Hofmans said, “it was pretty clear Wyatt was on life support.”

Hofmans hopes her words and her tears will serve as a warning that might prevent others for having to endure a similar loss.

“Every day’s the same for me,” Hofmans said. “People ask me that all the time. Is it worse on the holidays, is it worse on his birthday, worse on the day he died? No. Every day’s the same. You’re not supposed to lose your child.”

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