Ohio's largest county sees heroin-death record

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CLEVELAND (AP) -- Ohio's largest county saw a record number of heroin overdose deaths last year.

The medical examiner in northeast Ohio's Cuyahoga County said Thursday that heroin killed 195 people there in 2013, shattering the previous record of 161 fatal overdoses in 2012. It killed more people than homicide in the county of about 1.3 million people last year.

Officials say that the pain pill epidemic has been a gateway to heroin, which is cheaper and has become easier to get than prescription opiates.

"It was my hope that 2013 would see the number of heroin fatalities decrease, but that was not the case," said the county medical examiner, Dr. Thomas Gilson. "It is encouraging to see that the rate of rise of heroin deaths did drop compared to the previous year."

The county had 107 heroin-related deaths in 2011. In 2012, that number grew by 50 percent.

Gilson tells the Northeast Ohio Media Group (http://bit.ly/1fWNjAi ) that a push by the county to expand the distribution of the overdose antidote naloxone has led to the reversal of 31 possible overdoses.

The statistics showed suburban residents accounted for 75 of the overdose deaths. More than 26 percent of the people killed by heroin in the county were female, the highest percentage ever.

Less than 25 percent of the people killed by heroin in the county last year were between the ages of 19 and 29, the lowest percentage since 2008.

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Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com