The Opioid Epidemic Is Causing A Sharp Rise In Cocaine Overdose Deaths

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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The national opioid crisis is causing a significant uptick in cocaine overdose deaths in Ohio due to the increasing prevalence of the deadly synthetic painkiller fentanyl.

Columbus Public Health is warning about the rising risk of a fatal overdose from cocaine in their community, where deaths attributed to the narcotic more than doubled in a single year. Furthermore, roughly 30 percent of all fatal drug overdose victims in Franklin County last year had both cocaine and fentanyl in their systems at the time of death, reports WCMH Columbus.

Officials with Columbus Public Health are urging residents with substance abuse problems to reach out for help and follow the recommendations issued by the health department, due to the heightened threat posed by fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic painkiller that can be more than 100 times more powerful than morphine.

“People using cocaine may be exposed to more drug substances than they thought, and should be aware of the high possibility for overdose and death with fentanyl,” said the advisory from Columbus Public Health, according to WCMH Columbus. “Because fentanyl is being mixed with any street drug and not just opiates, public health officials advise recreational drug users, residents affected by substance use disorders, and their family and friends to follow our recommendations to reduce harm and death.”

Fentanyl-laced cocaine killed 88 people in Franklin County in 2017, up from 41 deaths in the previous year.

Ohio now has the second highest death rate from drug overdoses 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.

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.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that cocaine overdose deaths increased nationally from roughly 4,000 in 2009 to more than 6,700 in 2015. Officials predict that cocaine overdose deaths are about to explode in 2017 to nearly 11,000.

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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