Historic Surge Of Fentanyl Overdoses Gives Ohio The Second Highest Drug Death Rate In The Nation

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Drug overdose deaths are killing a record number of people in Ohio, which now has the second highest death rate in the U.S. behind only West Virginia.

The state lost 4,329 residents to drug overdoses in 2016, a 24 percent increase over the previous year, fueled by the worsening opioid epidemic that is spreading death throughout the country. Nearly 40 per 100,000 people in the state now die from a drug-related overdoses in Ohio, largely due to the influx of synthetic opioids like fentanyl and its analogs, which are at least 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, reports The Columbus Dispatch.

Some analogs like carfentanil, a synthetic painkiller typically reserved for tranquilizing elephants, can be up to 10,000 times more powerful than morphine. Officials in the state say the heroin and cocaine markets are now a Russian roulette of deadly substances.

“We’ve got a big problem in Ohio,” Dublin Police Chief Heinz von Eckartsberg told The Columbus Dispatch. “Fentanyl is powerful and more intense. People are putting stuff in their veins that’s going to kill them.”

Officials say without the presence of the overdose reversal drug naloxone, commonly called Narcan, the number of opioid deaths would be much higher. First responders in Ohio administered roughly 43,000 doses of naloxone in 2016.

Nationally, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing 63,600 people in 2016, according to data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says the opioid epidemic will continue to deteriorate, predicting drug deaths will exceed 71,000 in 2017.

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