Ohio's Opioid Crisis

Ohio Tackles Opioid Crisis

Everyone knows that the U.S. is facing an epidemic of heroin and opioid use, but did you know that Ohio leads the nation in overdoses? In Cuyahoga County alone, the number of deaths from heroin and fentanyl use increased from 198 in 2013 to 517 in 2016. The Northeastern region of Ohio, including both the Cleveland and Akron areas, are struggling to deal with this problem.

  • In the first two months of 2017, there have been 109 confirmed fatal overdoses in Cuyahoga County. That figure compares to only 57 victims in the first two months  of 2016.
  • In Summit County, officials estimate there were 225 heroin overdose deaths in 2016.

Carfentanil Causes Dramatic Increase in 2016

Akron witnessed a unique and dramatic spike in a three-week period last year. In July, Akron paramedics responded to 236 drug overdose calls, as compared to the 320 drug overdose calls they saw between January and June. This incredible increase, from two or fewer calls per day to eleven or more, was thought to be the result of the introduction of the drug carfentanil to the Akron drug market. This heroin-like drug is so potent it’s used to sedate elephants in zoos.

One of the major issues with carfentanil, aside from its lethality, is that it requires many more doses of naloxone — an opioid antidote — to revive people who are overdosing. Heroin typically takes just one dose, while the more powerful synthetic painkiller fentanyl takes three or four.

NEO Officials Addressing Growing Problem

Cleveland City Council President Sam O’Leary has said he favors anything that can address the growing problem, noting the city has trouble keeping enough kits of naloxone on hand to treat the heroin overdoses that police officers and firefighters encounter. Ohio’s opiate and prescription drug epidemic has severely strained law enforcement, criminal justice and health care resources and stretched the capacity of Ohio’s publicly-funded alcohol and drug addiction treatment services system.

The Ohio Attorney General’s office has committed resources from several areas to support the efforts of law enforcement, prosecutors and communities in the fight against heroin addiction. In, 2013 the office formally established a Heroin Unit. They’ve  instituted a variety of measures ranging from prevention to treatment:

  • Casey’s Law, effective in 2012, allows parents, relatives and friends to petition a probate court to order involuntary treatment of a person suffering from alcohol or other drug abuse, if the person presents an imminent threat of danger to oneself or others.
  • The Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS) requires patient information to be logged into the system before a Schedule II or opioid is prescribed or dispensed.
  • House Bill 170, signed into law in 2014, allows law enforcement to carry and administer Naloxone. This life-saving drug has reversed thousands of overdoses nationwide and can be credited for saving many lives.
  • Forty-eight Ohio counties have specialty drug courts to address drugs and prevent recidivism. Participants usually sign a plea agreement waiving their rights to defense and due process. Many drug courts use medicated assisted treatment (MAT) such as Vivitrol and Suboxone to treat opioid addictions.

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