Fen­tanyl drives an­other record year of Ohio OD deaths

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - State News - By An­drew Welsh Hug­gins

COLUM­BUS » An av­er­age of 11 peo­ple died each day of drug over­doses last year in Ohio, of­fi­cials said Wed­nes­day as they re­ported yet an­other grim mile­stone in the state’s ad­dic­tions epi­demic.

A record 4,050 peo­ple died of drug over­doses in 2016, with fa­tal­i­ties driven in large part by the emer­gence of stronger drugs like the syn­thetic painkiller fen­tanyl, the Health De­part­ment said. Over­dose deaths rose 33 per­cent over the 3,050 deaths in 2015.

Com­pound­ing the prob­lem was the ap­pear­ance of drugs like car­fen­tanil, an opi­oid so pow­er­ful it’s used to se­date ele­phants, and the lac­ing of drugs like co­caine with fen­tanyl.

The state says heroin re­lated deaths are lev­el­ing off, and deaths from pre­scrip­tion painkillers fell for the fifth straight year.

The pre­scrib­ing of painkillers also is fall­ing, an im­por­tant step to re­duc­ing over­all ad­dic­tion rates, said Dr. Mark Hurst, med­i­cal di­rec­tor of the Ohio De­part­ment of Men­tal Health and Ad­dic­tion Ser­vices.

“This progress is sig­nif­i­cant be­cause pre­scrip­tion opi­oid abuse is fre­quently a gate­way to heroin and fen­tanyl use later on,” Hurst said.

More than half the over­dose deaths in 2016 in­volved fen­tanyl, com­pared with 40 per­cent last year and 20 per­cent in 2014.

De­spite nu­mer­ous state ef­forts to ad­dress the epi­demic, it shows lit­tle signs of slow­ing. Cuya­hoga saw 547 deaths this year, but of­fi­cials there al­ready are pre­dict­ing the state will see more than 700 deaths once 2017 fig­ures are tal­lied.

The Franklin County coroner said ear­lier this year the county had 173 over­dose deaths through April, a 66 per­cent jump from the same pe­riod a year ago.

The num­ber of drug over­dose deaths by year in Ohio. Data from the Ohio De­part­ment of Health.

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