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Not just a big city problem

Upper Pine has responded to 3 opioid overdoses in two years

Opioid painkiller and/ or heroin addiction and overdoses aren't just happening some place else. They are in the Bayfield area too.

A local family was devastated last month when their 31-year-old son was found dead, possibly from a drug overdose.

Bayfield Marshal Joe McIntyre is still waiting to get a toxicology report back.

Upper Pine Fire Chief Bruce Evans said his staff has responded to three overdoses since October 2015 with two deaths, including the one in March.

In both of those deaths, the victims had been resuscitated in previous overdoses. The 2015 victim in Bayfield was resuscitated by Bayfield Marshal's Office deputies who were first on scene. The deputies were later honored with lifesaver awards.

Deaths after previous resuscitations aren't unusual.

Evans said the real question is how to get people off these drugs and then keep them off. The mother of last month's victim had tried everything. "The jury is still out on what works and what doesn't," he said.

At the fire department in Henderson, Nev. where he worked before coming to Upper Pine, Evans said two department employees lost sons to overdoses. In one part of Philadelphia, emergency responders deal with 10 to 30 overdoses a night, he said. In several states, more people have died from overdoses than in car crashes, he said.

Evans cited one source of opioid painkillers: they are prescribed for pain, but sometimes the patient has pills left and stashes them in a drawer where someone else finds them and becomes addicted. "You can't just flush them down the toilet. They go to the (sewage) treatment plant, and there's no way to filter that stuff out of the water."

The most recent data about opioid deaths are from 2015 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC web site listed 33,091 opioid deaths in 2015. It said there were more than 22,000 deaths in 2015 from prescription opioids, around 62 per day. It lists more than 15,000 deaths in 2015 from synthetic opioids including illegally produced fentanyl, around 42 per day.

It said prescription opioids continue to be involved in more overdose deaths than any other drugs.

CDC lists almost 13,000 heroin overdose deaths in 2015, a 20.6 increase from 2014. It said many people who abuse or are addicted to prescription opioids are at high risk of starting on heroin.

CDC categorizes opioid drugs as natural (such as morphine or codeine); semi-synthetic (such as oxycodone or hydrocodone); methadone listed separately as a synthetic opioid; synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and tramadol; and heroin.

It says the death rate from synthetics increased 72.2 percent from 2014 to 2015. Much of that increase is attributed to fentanyl, which is manufactured legally and illegally. It's what killed the musician Prince. It's often mixed with heroin or cocaine to increase the drug's effect.

A CNN.com report from October of 2016 shows maps with the highest rates of opioid deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 to 2014. New Mexico was at or near the top in all those years. The report lists drugs as the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. Deaths have disproportionately hit small towns and rural areas, mainly in the Southwest and Appalachia.

It says opioid drugs are so addictive because they bind with the parts of the brain that control pain and emotions, and they drive up levels of the pleasure hormone dopamine, which creates an intense euphoria. But as use continues, it takes more of the drug to get the same effect.