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Congresswoman Barbara Comstock

Representing the 10th District of Virginia

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Winchester Star: Region Hit With Overdose Blitz

September 30, 2016
In The News

WINCHESTER — Agents with the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug Task Force have responded to eight nonlethal overdoses in the city and Frederick County since Monday, according to a Thursday news release.

Issued by the Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition, the release states that, while lab results will ultimately determine the narcotics involved in each overdose, investigators believe five of the cases involve heroin. Three were likely synthetic drugs.

Task force agents also say the drugs have made their way into the region from Baltimore.

Eight overdoses, coalition Executive Director Lauren Cummings said Thursday, is an unusual number to see in the area in a given week, particularly after none had been reported the week prior.

The region, comprising Winchester and Frederick, Clarke, Warren, Shenandoah and Page counties, has likewise seen 21 overdose deaths so far in 2016, Cummings said. An additional 75 people have suffered nonfatal overdoses in that span, also called overdose injuries. In 2015, 30 people in the region died from overdoses; 55 suffered overdose injuries.

Cummings said there is no indication that the recent spate of overdoses are linked to heroin laced with an elephant tranquilizer known as carfentanil, which may be responsible for high volumes of overdoses in places such as Huntington, W.Va., where, on Aug. 12, the Associated Press reported that 26 such incidents occurred in a four-hour span and stretched emergency services and first responders to their limits.

The coalition is asking the public to take heed of the following behaviors in those around them, which may indicate issues with substance abuse, and seek help:

Change in friends
Declining grades
Lack of motivation, no "drive"
Disciplinary issues at school
Loss of interest in activities
Absences at school or work
Selling, pawning, stealing or missing valuables and cash
Frequent use of mints, gum, candy or chips to mask breath
Hiding items in cars, wallets, hat rims or prescription bottles
Avoiding loved ones or providing irrational excuses for absences
Increased sensitivity or becoming defensive or detached
Anxiety, depression or frequent mood swings
Irritability
Isolation, or spending long periods in the bathroom, shower or car
Changing sleep hours, or napping and falling asleep at odd times
Decline in physical appearance and self-care.
Sudden onset of or increased cigarette use
Increase in speeding tickets or minor accidents
Wearing long-sleeve shirts during warm weather (possibly to cover track marks)
If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder, a comprehensive listing of addiction resources in the Northern Shenandoah Valley can be found at www.roadtorecovery.info.

— Contact Christopher Earley at cearley@winchesterstar.com

Read the full story at The Winchester Star here.