Rising fentanyl overdoses are leading US morgues to run out of space
The fentanyl epidemic in the United States has gotten so bad that some morgues are running out of space. From 6,000 synthetic opioid-related deaths in 2015 to a major jump to over 63,0000 in 2021, fentanyl is the biggest contributor.
Coroner’s offices across the country say it’s difficult to keep pace with the bodies piling up. The Marion County Coroner’s Office in Indianapolis partly blames drug overdoses on their crowded morgue.
At the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office in Chicago, more space and resources were needed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, COVID-19 deaths have plummeted, but morgues still need that extra space because of all the people fentanyl kills.
« The most common unnatural death is opioids, that’s more than our number of homicides, more than our number of traffic accidents, » Cook County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Ponni said. Arunkumar.
Opioid-related deaths in Cook County nearly tripled from 675 in 2015 to nearly 2,000 last year.
« Most of them were fentanyl-related…These opioid-related deaths are preventable, all of these deaths are preventable, » Dr. Arunkumar said.
Chicago-area resident Karen Zander lost her 22-year-old son John Allen to fentanyl poisoning. Zander said that in 2016, Allen made the choice to snort cocaine that his best fry was fortified with fentanyl, which ultimately killed him.
« These choices they make, they can’t learn from their mistakes because they die, » Zander said.
Zander says fentanyl is a weapon of mass destruction.
« It’s time for us to wake up and take this stuff off the streets, » Zander said.
Another Chicago-area resident, Caitlin Strebing, said her 35-year-old brother, Ryan, accidentally overdosed on fentanyl last year. She now advocates for substance abuse disorders and fentanyl awareness.
« Fentanyl is currently the leading cause of death in the United States among 18 to 45 year olds and I think that speaks for itself, » Strebing said.
So far, there are no signs of this deadly trend stopping. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office is still using its refrigerated trailers as morgue space and can handle all bodies at this time.
« The increase in 2020 continued in 2021 and 2022, but if it increases further, we may need to consider additional resources, » Dr Arunkumar said.
Some coroners’ offices had to increase their budgets to deal with the problem.