Report shows lows in prescription opioid, heroin deaths in Ohio

    Ohio Health Department report shows lows in Ohio prescription opioid, heroin deaths (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)

    Prescription opioid-related overdose deaths are at an eight-year low and heroin-related overdose deaths are at a four-year low, according to a new Ohio Department of Health report.

    Overdose deaths declined during the second half of 2017 by 23% according to the ODH. Prescription opioid-related overdose deaths declined 7 percent from 2016-2017, and almost 28 percent from 2011-2017. Opioid prescribing decreased for a fifth consecutive year in 2017 according to ODH.

    “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,” Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Director Mark Hurst, M.D. said. “This progress is significant because prescription opioid abuse is frequently a gateway to heroin and fentanyl use.”

    The latest findings show illegally produced fentanyl which is mixed with other street drugs, is driving Ohio’s unintentional overdose deaths, with 4,854 in 2017. The report found in 2017, illegally produced fentanyl and related drugs like carfentanil, which are opioids, were involved in 71 percent of all unintentional overdose deaths. Fentanyl was involved in 58 percent of overdose deaths in 2016, 38 percent in 2015, and 20 percent in 2014 according to ODH.

    Ohio had 1,540 cocaine-related overdose deaths in 2017, compared to 1,109 in 2016 – a 39 percent increase, according to ODH. There were 537 overdose deaths involving psychostimulants like methamphetamine in 2017, compared to 233 in 2016 – a 130 percent increase according to the new report.

    “While data shows us that Ohio’s efforts to curb prescription opioid abuse are working, the driving force today in Ohio’s ever-changing opioid epidemic is deadly fentanyl being used with other street drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine,” said ODH Director Lance Himes.

    The State of Ohio tries to eliminate drug abuse and addiction by:

    • Sponsoring community rapid response teams to follow up with individuals who survive a drug overdose to seek to connect them to treatment
    • Increasing the number of medical professionals qualified to prescribe medication-assisted treatment, the gold standard for treating opioid use disorder
    • Expanding local prescription drug overdose prevention initiatives
    • Pursuing scientific breakthroughs to battle drug abuse and addiction
    • Expanding access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone to save lives
    • Implementing common sense reforms to prevent pain medication abuse
    • Expanding data and tools available in Ohio’s prescription drug reporting and monitoring program known as OARRS used by opioid prescribers and pharmacists to enhance patient safety
    • Providing funding to support toxicology screenings during Ohio coroner drug overdose investigations
    • Educating prescribers and patients on how to safely manage pain and prevent pain medication abuse

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