Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
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Ohio second in nation for highest drug overdose deaths per capita

  • Overcoming-Opioids-Cures-Act

    This Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 photo shows an arrangement of pills of the opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen in New York.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Overcoming-Opioids-Past-Epidemics

    This July 19, 2001, file photo shows OxyContin tablets at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ohio had the second-highest number of drug overdose deaths per capita in 2016, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released Thursday. 

The report shows Ohio had 39.1 overdose deaths per 100,000 people last year, nearly double the national overdose death rate of 19.8 deaths per 100,000. That number was a sharp increase from 2015 when the CDC reported 29.9 deaths per 100,000 Ohio residents. 

Only West Virginia, with 52 overdose deaths per 100,000 people, has a higher rate of death than Ohio.

Ohio’s spike fits the nationwide trend of drug overdose deaths, fueled primarily by the use of synthetic opioids. The age-adjusted death rate for drug overdoses increased 18 percent per year from 2014 to 2016.

The CDC did not break down deaths by cause or by county, which the Ohio Department of Health did in its annual report released this summer. It found heroin and all other opioids responsible for 86 percent of overdose deaths statewide.

Of the 288 confirmed opioid overdoses across a 21-county region of northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan last year, 112 of them were from fentanyl — a powerful synthetic opioid about 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown used the report as a chance to drum up support for his INTERDICT Act, which would provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection with $15 million for new technology that can be used to try slowing the supply of fentanyl. The bill is also sponsored by Republican Sen. Rob Portman.

“This report confirms what too many Ohioans already know — the opioid epidemic is devastating our communities,” Mr. Brown said. “Law enforcement officers need every tool available to keep fentanyl out of the country and off of Ohio streets.”

The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the bill, with a Senate version waiting in committee.

The STOP Act, a bill sponsored by Mr. Portman and co-sponsored by Mr. Brown, would enable closer inspection of overseas packages arriving through the U.S. Postal Service, and it has been sitting in committees in both the House and Senate. 

Contact Zack Lemon at zlemon@theblade.com419-724-6282 or on Twitter @zack_lemon.

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