Report: Drug Overdose Deaths in Ohio Increase for 2015

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — A new report released by the state indicates deaths tied to the opioid epidemic in Ohio are still on the rise.

Unintentional drug overdoses led to the deaths of 3,050 residents in 2015, according to data released Thursday by the Ohio Department of Health. The number is the highest on record, up 20.5 percent from 2014 — a similar increase from 2013 to 2014.

The report attributes the increase to the more than doubling of deaths involving fentanyl, from 503 in 2014 to 1,155 in 2015.

Fentanyl is a synthetic narcotic, estimated to be between 30 and 50 times more potent than heroin when distributed in prescription form.

Although some of the prescribed fentanyl is being distributed on the illegal market, researchers indicated overdoses are tied more to illegally produced and trafficked forms of the drug that are then mixed with other drugs — most commonly heroin.

Only 30 deaths related to fentanyl were tied to individuals with a prescription within 90 days of their death, according to the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy’s Automated Rx Reporting System.

The trend is similar for opioids overall, as the reporting system also showed doctors continued to prescribe fewer opioid painkillers. In 2015, there were 81 million fewer doses distributed by doctors than in 2011.

Programs and initiatives such as the Automated Rx Reporting System, the Governor’s Cabinet Opiate Action Team and the state’s opioid prescribing guidelines are credited with helping the number of prescription drug overdose numbers decrease from 672 in 2014 to 667 in 2015.

This is the fourth-straight year the number has decreased.

Read the full report from the Ohio Department of Health here.