The opioid crisis has worsened in Ohio. Overdose deaths increased 36 percent compared to the numbers recorded in 2015. According to official data, about 4,000 people died from an overdose last year in the state. However, some consider that there were more deaths from drug abuse than those on record.

Ohio has been in the last years the state with the highest overdose deaths rates in the United States. Though Ohio coroners have worked to reduce these numbers, no improvement has been achieved. The opioid crisis worsened in 2016, and it is expected to be deeper in 2017.

Gray Death, Opioid Overdose
“Ohio’s coroners have been overwhelmed by the numbers of opioid death investigations they’ve had to conduct over the past two years,” the Ohio State Coroners Association said in a statement last week. Image credit: New Hampshire State Police Forensic Lab.

2017 records will be worse than 2016’s

4,149 people died from an overdose in 2016 across Ohio mainly due to the abuse of heroin and other powerful opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil. This represents a 36 percent increase if compared to the number of overdose deaths from 2015 when about 3,000 people died from the same reasons.

Ohio was the State with more overdose deaths in 2014, 2015 and 2016, according to the statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite all efforts, the opioid crisis in the state is extremely likely to be worse in 2017.

The county with the worse records in 2016 was the Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland. It reported 666 overdose deaths, mainly due to the abuse of fentanyl. Image credit:

Akron’s Summit County reported 308 overdose deaths mostly caused by carfentanil. Coroners in six counties didn’t provide their overdose deaths numbers.

The opioid epidemic in Ohio is a “tsunami”

According to William Denihan, the outgoing chief executive officer of the Cuyahoga County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board, the opioid epidemic is a “tsunami.” He said that a lot had been done to reverse the numbers, but they just keep going the other way, showing no improvement at all.

However, overdose deaths could be so much worse if it wasn’t for all the lives that have been saved with the opioid overdose antidote, naloxone, according to the Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services. Nonetheless, as it was stated by Dr. Mark Hurst –who is the medical director of the department– using naloxone to prevent overdose deaths is not the real solution to the crisis.

Image credit: The Huffington Post
“This is going to turn around,” Hurst said. “I wish I could tell you when it’s going to turn around,” said Dr. Hurst Image credit: The Huffington Post

Ohio was one of the states that prohibited the sale of prescription opioids like oxycodone; sadly it has led to addicts searching for drugs that are more potent.

Counties don’t have the budget to perform toxicology tests

Another problem is that there is a lack of resources to test for overdose in the death bodies that are processed. Some coroners say they don’t have the staff to do that either, while others just don’t keep track on it.

The Ohio coroners are in such a fret that they are asking for help, they are requesting the General Assembly an additional $4 million to support the creation of the Drug Overdose Autopsy and Toxicology Program across Ohio. This should be raised by increasing the costs of birth and death certificates.

“I’d like to, but I just don’t have the budget,” said Logan County Coroner Michael Failor. “I spend all my money doing autopsies.”

In the Logan County and Jackson County, they don’t know how many people have died due to drug abuse; they don’t do toxicology tests on bodies because they would have to use nearly all the budget on that.

Jackson County Coroner Alice Frazier said that the former coroner didn’t keep good records. Therefore, numbers are not precise. Jackson Municipal Court Judge Mark Musick regrets to think that many people are dying in the County because of drugs. He says that Jackson County is like a war zone because they have a total of 6,300 inhabitants and they lose two young people a month.

Therefore, even if people die from an overdose, it is not classified as such. Their death is being attributed to some other cause. For example, 12 people died apparently from respiratory failure in the county last year in this county. However, according to Frazier, this is the primary cause of death in an overdose. Nevertheless, they are not being considered by the 4,000 people who died due to drug abuse.

In Medina County, the coroner Lisa Deranek said that they are doing the best they can to count all the overdose deaths. To economize, she takes the urine blood and urine samples. This can be dangerous given how toxic these new drugs are. They don’t have funds for proper masks, goggles and other equipment. As well, she complained about the work of the former county coroner, who didn’t keep good records.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch