Home Social Justice Overdose deaths in Ohio reach new high; fentanyl dubbed driving force

Overdose deaths in Ohio reach new high; fentanyl dubbed driving force

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Overdose deaths in Ohio reach new high. Photo from Nottingham Vet School

The drug fentanyl has been driving overdose deaths in Ohio to an all-time high, according to stats by Ohio Department of Health.

Overdose deaths in Ohio reached a new high in 2017, with 4,854 deaths reported by the Ohio Department of Health.  

ODH attributed 3,431 of these deaths — around 70 percent — to fentanyl or related drugs like carfentanil. Fentanyl-related overdose deaths jumped dramatically from 2016-2017, increasing by over a thousand deaths.

“The driving force today in Ohio’s ever-changing opioid epidemic is deadly fentanyl being used with other street drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine,” ODH Director Lance Himes said in a press release.

While fentanyl-related deaths saw an increase in 2017, overdoses involving prescription opioids decreased, continuing a trend that began in 2014. From 2016 to 2017, prescription opioid overdoses fell from 564 to 523.

“The good news is Ohio is seeing significant progress in reducing the number of prescription opioids available for abuse, and as a result, prescription opioid-related overdose deaths that don’t also involve fentanyl are at their lowest level since 2009,” Mark Hurst, the director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said in a press release. “This progress is significant because prescription opioid abuse is frequently a gateway to heroin and fentanyl use.”

According to statistics from ODH, the number of opioid solid doses given out to patients has fallen from its peak of 793 million doses in 2012 to 568 million doses in 2017. Additionally, the number of “doctor shoppers” — described as a person that receives a controlled substance from five or more prescribers per month — has decreased almost tenfold since it’s peak of 2,205 shoppers to just 273 shoppers in 2017.

Cocaine saw an increase in overdose deaths from 2016 to 2017, jumping from 1,109 deaths to 1,540. Cocaine accounted for around 32 percent of overdose deaths in 2017.

Athens County only had six reported overdose deaths last year; Cuyahoga County, the county with the most deaths, had 598.

Ohio has been hit hard in the opioid crisis, frequently having some of the highest rates of opioid-related overdoses in the nation. Currently, Ohio ranks third with the number of opioid overdose deaths, behind West Virginia and New Hampshire according to stats from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

According to the ODH’s press release, the state of Ohio invests over $1 billion each year to combat the opioid crisis.

ODH’s full stats are available here.

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