Prescription, heroin-related overdoses fall, fentanyl-related overdoses rise, ODH reports

CLEVELAND - Prescription opioid-related overdose deaths have reached an eight-year low and heroin-related deaths are at a four-year low, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Fentanyl, which is being mixed and used with drugs such as cocaine and heroin, is now the leading cause of overdose deaths in Ohio.

A report from the Ohio Department of Health revealed the number of overdose deaths during the second half of 2017 declined by 23 percent.

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

In 2017, fentanyl was involved in 71 percent of all unintentional overdose deaths. In 2014, fentanyl was involved in only 20 percent of overdose deaths, which means fentanyl-related deaths of increased by 51 percent in four years.

Cocaine-related deaths increased in Ohio by 39 percent, according to the Ohio Department of Health. The report showed that 537 overdose deaths involving drugs similar to methamphetamine occurred in 2017, compared to 233 in 2016 – that’s a 130 percent increase.

Since 2011, the number of prescription-related overdose deaths has decreased by 28 percent.

The State of Ohio has invested more than $1 billion each year to help battle drug abuse and addiction at the state and local levels 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

  • 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

  • Implementing common sense reforms to prevent pain medication abuse

  • Expanding data and tools available in Ohio's prescription drug reporting

  • Providing funding to support toxicology screenings during overdose investigations

  • Educating prescribers and patients on how to safely manage pain and prevent abuse

To read the full Ohio Department of Health report on 2017 overdose deaths, click here.

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