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Oral drug testing reveals trends by county

Forensic Fluids Laboratories conducted oral drug testing with data showing people in Mahoning County were more likely to test positive for a substance than Trumbull County people who were tested. The lab also concluded that methamphetamine, cocaine, buprenorphine and fentanyl use were on the rise throughout the Midwest. Many law enforcement agencies conduct events to dispose of prescription drugs, such as Operation: Empty Medicine Cabinet last spring, above, with Trumbull County Sheriff’s deputies Melissa Kelly and Nick Clayton. Staff file photo / R. Michael Semple

WARREN — In Mahoning County people who received oral drug testing from a certain lab were more likely to test positive for marijuana, while in Trumbull County, people were most likely to test positive for cocaine.

Michigan-based Forensic Fluids Laboratories is under contract with Ohio Juvenile and Family Services, which offers protective services under the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. It’s also under contract for several departments in Michigan and Indiana.

The company collected data to create a report based on the departments it contracts with, showing which drugs trended in which states between 2014 and 2018. It only has 2018 data for testing done in Trumbull and Mahoning counties.

The company conducted oral drug testing in various courts and other departments — juvenile / family court, probation, drug courts, mental health agencies, veteran courts, and workplace testing for pre-employment and post-accident incidents.

POSITIVE TESTS

The data shows people in Mahoning County were more likely to test positive for a substance than Trumbull County people tested.

Of the people who tested positive for a substance in Trumbull County, data from the lab shows 22.73 percent had cocaine in their system, 18.18 percent had methadone — a drug used to wean people off harder opioids, and 13.64 percent of people had THC — the compound in marijuana that gives people the feeling of being high — in their system.

Of the tests conducted by the lab, 45.5 percent of people in Trumbull County tested positive for something in 2018, while 56.12 people in Mahoning County tested positive for something.

In Mahoning County, the people tested were most likely to have marijuana in their systems — 25.98 percent, while cocaine was found in 14.20 percent of samples and in 8.66 percent of samples the opioid pain killer buprenorphine was discovered.

The lab did testing in 64 of the state’s 88 counties. In 30 counties, including Mahoning County, 50 to 100 percent of the samples were positive for one substance or another. In 20 of the counties, including Trumbull, 40 to 49 percent of the samples tested positive for one drug or another. Thirteen counties in the state, including Geauga County, saw positive tests in 30 to 39 percent of samples. Only one county tested, Muskingum County, had a rate lower than 29 percent.

The lab concluded that methamphetamine, cocaine, buprenorphine and fentanyl drug use were on the rise throughout the Midwest between 2014-18.

“Some counties, such as Montgomery, Delaware and Wood (in Ohio), have positive cocaine rates more than double that of areas in Guernsey, Wayne and Muskingum. Many counties show rates of cocaine positives across all years examined by Forensic Fluids Laboratories,” the study states.

FENTANYL

The study found an increase in the presence of fentanyl, too, “in areas surrounding Ohio’s more urban counties, especially in the northeast and southwest parts of the state.”

Fentanyl is an opioid commonly used for pain management in cancer patients. It is considered one of the most potent opioid pain relievers prescribed, as it is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin, the study states.

In Indiana, the number of counties showing methamphetamine use significantly increased in the rural southeast part of the state. From the years 2014 to 2018, the total number of Indiana counties showing a high positive methamphetamine rate increased from 4 to 29.

But, in Indiana, cocaine use decreased significantly. The counties with the highest cocaine usage remain those with large urban areas — such as Marion County where Indianapolis is. The proximity to a major highway, such as Interstate 94, correlated with high cocaine usage in these counties, the study found.

In Michigan, total positive rates for all drugs increased in almost all Michigan counties. The number of counties showing high positive rates for methamphetamine increased substantially, from 10 counties in 2015 to 46 counties in 2018, according to the study. The western and central Lower Peninsula and the western Upper Peninsula saw the greatest expansion of high rates of methamphetamine. Metro Detroit showed a low positive methamphetamine rate of 1 percent, while the northernmost parts of the Upper Peninsula saw positive methamphetamine rates of 25 percent.

rfox@tribtoday.com

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