Health Department Releases New Drug Abuse Data

Report Shows Alarming Increase In Deaths Due to Fentanyl

New statistics released by the Ohio Department of Health, Sept 24, show some positive trends in Ohio’s fight against prescription drug abuse, but an alarming increase in deaths due to fentanyl, which is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroine.

Based on law enforcement drug seizures, fentanyl was a significant contributor to a rise in drug overdose deaths with 502 related deaths in 2014 compared to just 84 in 2013. Ohio is working with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to fully analyze the state’s fentanyl-related drug overdose data so local and state officials, law enforcement and providers better understand the nature of the fentanyl problem in Ohio and how to address it.

"At the same time, we are experiencing positive progress in our fight against drug addiction, such as fewer opiates being dispensed and a decrease in high-doses of opiates, we are also seeing some individuals begin to use more dangerous drugs to achieve more intense effects,” said Mark Hurst, MD, medical director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Drug Services (OMHAS)

Hurst said as individuals build up tolerance to the drugs they are using, many progress from abusing prescription pain pills to heroin or fentanyl.

Since Ohio started to aggressively fight back against opiate abuse, however, the state has begun seeing some promising progress:

  • The number of opiate prescriptions dispensed to Ohio patients in 2014 decreased by more than 40 million doses compared to 2013. Fewer doses lessen the opportunity for opiates to be redistributed or abused.
  • The number of individuals “doctor shopping” for controlled substances including opiates as identified through the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS) decreased from more than 3,100 in 2009 to approximately 960 in 2014.
  • Patients receiving prescription opiates for the treatment of pain at doses greater than an 80 mg morphine equivalent dose decreased by 10.8 percent from the fourth quarter of 2013 when Ohio’s opiate prescribing guidelines were announced, to the second quarter of 2015.
  • The percentage of opiate prescribers registered to use OARRS increased by 30.3 percent from the fourth quarter of 2013 to the second quarter of 2015. This upward trend will continue because prescribers are now required to show that they are registered in OARRS for re-licensing.

“As an active member of the Governor’s Cabinent Opioid Action Team (GCOAT), we are pleased the state is making progress in so many areas,” said OOA Executive Director Jon Wills. “On the other hand, the  switch from prescription drugs to illicit drug use, shows that we continue to need a holistic approach to the problem which involves not only supply strategies but access to treatment in general.”  

Included in new Ohio initiatives is an additional investment of $500,000 per year to purchase the lifesaving overdose antidote naloxone. Also, Ohio officials released in July the Health Resource Toolkit for Addressing Opioid Abuse to help communities fight back. Additional new strategies and tactics can be found here.

ODH’s release of 2014 preliminary drug overdose death data is seven months faster than past years and ahead of most states. By getting this data out more quickly it enables the state, local governments and Ohio communities to have a better understanding of the challenges they face and the tactics necessary to take on the struggle against drug abuse.

Learn more about fentanyl here. The full ODH report is available here, and a graphic timeline of past key initiatives to combat opiate abuse here.



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