By Ed Runyan
Though 2011 statistics released last month by the Ohio Department of Health showed Trumbull County’s death rate from drug overdose on the rise, the county’s 2012 figures show a big decline.
Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, Trumbull County coroner, released statistics this week showing the number of overdose-related deaths dropping 39 percent in 2012.
There were 36 accidental drug-related deaths in 2012, down 23 from the 59 recorded in 2011.
The 59 deaths in 2011 was the highest number since 2007. The 36 deaths in 2012 is the lowest number since at least 2006.
“It means things are working,” Dr. Germaniuk said of efforts by police to combat drug dealing and use, educational efforts by local organizations and news coverage of the problem.
Last May, Dr. Germaniuk and an official with the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services highlighted the 2011 statistics at a town-hall meeting at the Trumbull Career and Technical Center.
They showed heroin overdose deaths climbing from six in 2010 to 19 in 2011 and the number of males dying from overdosing doubling from 23 to 45 between 2009 and 2011.
The state official pointed out the problem statewide is with the use of opiates — drugs like heroin, Vicodin, and OxyContin — and the dramatic increase in the number of such pills Ohioans are using compared to a decade earlier.
The 2012 statistics show a drop in heroin-related deaths between 2011 and 2012 from 19 to 10, of Methadone from 6 to 1, and cocaine from 4 to 2.
The age groups most affected are from 22 to 56, with deaths dropping from 14 to 6 in age group 22 to 30, from 20 to 12 in age group 31 to 45 and from 19 to 10 in age group 46 to 56.
The percentage of whites dying from drug overdoses compared with blacks remains high — with 97 percent being white in 2012, compared with 95 percent in 2011.
The percentage of people dying with two or more drugs in their system at the same time remains high, Dr. Germaniuk said. In 2012, the percentage was 56 percent, up from 34 percent in 2011.
Dr. Germaniuk said he suspects that one reason for the drop in overdose fatalities is that people are starting to become aware that they might lose their loved one to this problem if they don’t act.
Some are confronting physicians about it.
“They’re saying, ‘You’re killing my wife’ or ‘You’re killing my husband,’” Dr. Germaniuk said of overprescribed painkillers.
The state health department’s report released last week also showed that deaths from drug overdoses had increased substantially in Mahoning and Columbiana counties as well over the past decade.