Photo: CNN

The problem of opioid overdoses is an epidemic that leaves no region of the state, or nation, untouched. The CDC reported that 52,000 people lost their lives to opioid overdoses in 2015 – 1,300 of those were in Georgia – and drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death in adults under 50.

In addition to heroin and prescription pain killers, law enforcement officers and health officials are now battling synthetic opioids with a heightened potency of 10,000x that of morphine, some of which can be absorbed through the skin, that have taken a toll on communities across the state.

Southeast Georgia is not immune this epidemcic despite Georgia’s lagging numbers compared to those across the nation. [See map below]

SOUTHEAST GEORGIA:

County 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 5-YEAR TOTAL 5-YEAR REGION TOTAL POPULATION
79
Appling 3 1 1 1 2 8 18,454
Bulloch 4 2 2 3 4 15 72,651
Candler 1 2 3 0 0 6 10,886
Emanuel 1 0 3 3 0 7 22,708
Evans 1 0 1 0 1 3 10,787
Liberty 4 3 3 5 4 19 62,467
Long 1 1 2 0 0 4 17,731
Screven 0 0 0 0 0 0 14,162
Tattnall 1 4 2 1 0 8 25,229*
Toombs 1 3 4 0 1 9 27,241

Information: GA Department of Public Health Information System
*Tattnall County population includes Georgia State Prison, Smith State Prison, and Rogers State Prison.

Compare those statistics to metro area counties:

COUNTY 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 5-YEAR TOTAL 5-YEAR REGION TOTAL POPULATION
Clayton 21 25 17 15 23 101 1,344 273,955
Cobb 108 88 54 12 21 283 741,334
DeKalb 54 58 38 22 43 215 734,871
Fulton 130 108 96 71 60 465 1.011 million
Gwinnett 61 75 49 57 38 280 895,823

 

The problem with opioid overdose statistics is the underreporting and the sometimes-unknown cause of death due other circumstances surrounding a death, like cardiac arrest or asphyxiation.

Currently, 150 out of roughly 500 police departments around Georgia equip their officers with naloxone, the overdose reversal drug adminstered by nasal spray. Most EMS and first responders also carry the drug.

In 2016, the Georgia State Senate and Health & Human Services Committee Chairwoman Renee Unterman held a series of study committee sessions to study Georgia’s opioid epidemic. The year-end report did not yeild any susbtantial or new information.

The changes in the legislature largely dealt with methadone clinics and not the epidemic itself. Georgia does, however, have a 911 immunity law that grants immunity from criminal prosecution of drug crimes if a person calls 911 for help during an overdose.

Below is a map of the state drug overdose rates by state (all inclusive, not just opioids). The darker colors indicate a higher rate.

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Jessica Szilagyi is statewide contributor for All On Georgia and Market Manager for Southeast Georgia. Her main focus with All On Georgia is state and local politics as well as agriculture. She’s served as a policy analyst at the State Capitol and as a campaign manager in political races across the state.

She writes for GeorgiaPol.com and has two blogs of her own: ‘The Perspicacious Conservative’, a political blog, and ‘Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers’, a blog on moving from Atlanta to rural Georgia. Jessica is also a contributor for Fox5 Atlanta’s ‘Like it Or Not.’

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