OD deaths in Valley rose in 2017, state reports


Staff report

COLUMBUS

Unintentional prescription opioid-related overdose deaths have reached an eight-year low and heroin-related overdose deaths are at a four-year low in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

However, the overall number of unintentional drug overdose deaths continued to rise in Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties last year.

According to the ODH, the number of unintentional drug overdose deaths rose from 111 in 2016 to 135 in 2017 in Trumbull County; from 39 in 2016 to 48 in 2017 in Columbiana County, and from 83 in 2016 to 112 in 2017 in Mahoning County.

While unintentional prescription opioid-related deaths went down sharply during that two-year period, illegally produced fentanyl, which is being mixed and used with other street drugs, such as cocaine, heroin and psychostimulants such as methamphetamine, is now driving up Ohio’s and the Mahoning Valley’s unintentional overdose deaths, which numbered 4,854 statewide in 2017, ODH officials said.

“The good news is that Ohio is seeing significant progress in reducing the number of prescription opioids available for abuse. As a result, prescription opioid-related overdose deaths that don’t involve fentanyl are at their lowest level since 2009, said Dr. Mark Hurst, Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services director.

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

While data show that Ohio’s efforts to curb prescription opioid abuse are working, the driving force today in Ohio’s opioid epidemic is deadly fentanyl being used with other street drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine, said ODH Director Lance Himes.

In 2017, illegally produced fentanyl and related drugs such as carfentanil, which are opioids, were involved in 71 percent of all unintentional overdose deaths. By comparison, fentanyl was involved in 58 percent of all overdose deaths in 2016, 38 percent in 2015 and 20 percent in 2014, according to ODH data.

State officials report deaths dropped sharply in the second half of 2017, and Valley officials have seen a marked decrease in such deaths so far this year.

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