Over 4,000 people died from drug overdoses in Ohio last year, according to a newspaper survey of county coroners.
Ohio has been one of the states hit hardest by the heroin and opioid epidemic, ABC News reports. There were a total of 4,149 unintentional fatal drug overdoses in 2016 – a 36% increase from 2015, which had only 3,000 similar deaths reported. The number is expected to go up as coroners tabulate final numbers.
An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation that used information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that Ohio led the USA in the total number of fatal overdoses in both 2014 and 2015.
Last year’s spike in deaths is being attributed to heroin and powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil that have brought on the country’s sweeping drug crisis.
Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, topped the list with 666 deaths in 2016. The majority was blamed on fentanyl use. William Denihan, outgoing chief executive officer of the Cuyahoga County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board, said the opioid problem is a “tsunami.” He said, “We’ve done so much, but the numbers are going the other way. I don’t see the improvement.”
In Summit County, close to half of its recorded 308 deaths was caused by carfentanil. Gary Guenther, an investigator for the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office, said there is a high demand for the drug among addicts. He said,
It doesn’t make any sense.
The Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services in Ohio said that the fatal overdoses in 2015 would have been much higher were it not for naloxone, the opioid overdose antidote.
Ohio was one of the leading states that cut down on “pill mills” or places that sold prescription opioids. But health officials say this in turn led to addicts turning to more powerful opioids instead. Mark Hurst, medical director for Ohio’s health and mental health departments, said, “I wish I could tell you when it’s going to turn around.”