Accidental drug overdoses are killing 8 people a day in Ohio

Accidental drug overdoses killed 3,050 people in Ohio last year, an average of eight per day, as deaths blamed on the powerful painkiller fentanyl again rose sharply and pushed the total overdose fatalities to a record high, the state reported Thursday.

More than one-third of those deaths — 1,155 — were fentanyl-related, which more than doubled from the previous year and increased from just 75 in 2012.

Authorities who had been targeting prescription painkiller abuse say the problem has changed quickly in recent years as users turned to heroin, fentanyl and even stronger drugs.

Ohio has been among the states hardest hit by the overdose epidemic. Fentanyl overdose deaths spiked so quickly last year that scientists with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention visited the state to study the problem.

It's an epidemic that can be effectively addressed only through cooperation and a combination of prevention, early intervention, up-to-date treatment and life-saving measures such as the opioid overdose antidote naloxone, said Dr. Mark Hurst, the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services' medical director.

Republican Gov. John Kasich said he believed the state was making progress, despite the latest record death toll.

"It makes me feel terrible, but what makes me feel good is how many people did not die because of our efforts," he said Thursday at a special judicial summit on opioids in Cincinnati involving authorities from nine states.

He said stepped-up prescription monitoring and new guidance for prescribers helped sharply reduce opioid doses dispensed in the state, and said Ohio had other action in the works to curb prescription drug misuse.

 

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