Home City These opioids are causing more SE Ohio overdoses than ever before

These opioids are causing more SE Ohio overdoses than ever before

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While opioid overdoses linked to prescription pills are on the decline in Ohio, deaths related to newer, stronger opioids and laced cocaine are on the rise. That includes the southeast Ohio community.

Fentanyl, carfentanil and cocaine use in southeast Ohio caused accidental drug overdoses to catapult in 2016, with 25 percent more deaths than the year prior.

Data from Athens, Hocking, Vinton, Meigs, Washington and Ross counties taken from the 2016 Ohio Drug Overdose Data: General Findings report indicates that, while Athens itself saw two fewer deaths, numbers in Washington and Meigs increased by over 50 percent.

“A lot of times maybe they’re getting a bad batch, maybe they’ve been off for a while and they get a new batch and the batch has fentanyl in it,” Ohio Rep. Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville, said.

Deaths due to prescription opioids fell to levels not seen since 2009, but fentanyl, carfentanil and related drugs were involved in over half of last year’s overdoses. Cocaine laced with opioids emerged as a growing issue, with a 61.9 percent increase in overdoses since 2015.

“It’s affecting all of us and I really think it’s going to have to happen on a local level, to get this problem done,” Edwards said.

“We can definitely help from the state level, we’ve thrown hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars at this problem, and it’s continually getting worse. Spending money is part of it, but we need to make sure we’re spending money in the correct way.”

At the state level, Edwards introduced House Bill 167, nicknamed “Daniel’s Law” after Daniel Weidle of Montgomery County, who died of a drug overdose in 2015.

His father, Scott Weidle, spoke about his son’s story at the press conference.

“The medical discrimination of the disease of addiction I have witnessed was a significant factor in Daniel losing his battle,” Weidle said. “We have a moral obligation as a state and society to break the cycle and do everything we can to influence positive change to this issue.”

Weidle called his son’s death a “medical system failure story,” and Edwards said this bill was a “standard, common sense approach” to the prescription opioid epidemic in Ohio that many like Daniel Weidle face.

“As legislators we need to be mindful of the fact that when we write laws we do our work with real people in mind,” Edwards said, referring to the bill’s alternate name.

Daniel’s Law would limit the amount of dosage of prescription opioids for acute pain that physicians can prescribe, in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

On a local level, an Athens-based task force formed this spring to combat opioid abuse in the community. HOPE (Halting Opioid abuse through Prevention and Education) seeks to educate and reduce the stigma surrounding addiction.

Started by Ohio University’s College of Health Sciences and Professions, the organization teamed up with Athens City-County Health Department, Health Recovery Services, OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital, the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and more.

“We don’t want to rush this through, we want to get this right,” Edwards said.

“We’re finally getting to the point where we’re sitting down and talking. It’s going to be a long-term fix, it’s not going to be something that happens overnight and we’re just trying to work every day to help it.”

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