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CDC: Fentanyl deaths in Ohio on the rise

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    Fentanyl-related overdose deaths in Ohio increased from 84 in 2013 to 502 in 2014, state officials said.

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Deaths from fentanyl, an opiate that is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin, have skyrocketed in Ohio, based on a new report released today by the Centers for Disease Control.

The Ohio Department of Health asked the federal health agency to study the use of fentanyl over concern that use is growing rapidly across the state and pushing the number of overdose deaths to new heights. Fentanyl-related overdose deaths in Ohio increased from 84 in 2013 to 502 in 2014, state officials said.

Here in Lucas County and surrounding counties, heroin and fentanyl-related deaths increased from 145 in 2014 to 215 deaths in 2015, said Dr. Robert Forney, the chief toxicologist at the Lucas County Coroner’s office.

RELATED CONTENT: Full Centers for Disease Control report

Dr. Forney said fentanyl was not on his radar until late in 2014 and that year 13 of the 145 deaths in northwest Ohio involved fentanyl as the primary opiate found in the deceased.

By the next year, 66 of the 215 opioid-related deaths involved the use of fentanyl alone, he said.

Some of the key findings in the report are that those at greatest risk from overdosing on fentanyl were white men with a history of substance abuse or who were dealing with a mental health issue. 

Another risk factor for overdosing was if the person was released from a jail, hospital, or substance abuse treatment facility within the last month and if the person had been given a high-dose opioid prescription in the past.

Approximately 62 percent of those in Ohio who died from fentanyl and heroin overdoses had a record of at least one opioid prescription from a health-care provider during the seven years preceding their death. About 40 percent of those who died from fentanyl and some 33 percent of people who died from heroin had been prescribed an opioid at the maximum dose available, according to the report.

CDC officials examined death certificates, coroners’ records, and emergency department visits over a three-week period last October. CDC and ODH officials also met with local officials in Cuyahoga, Hamilton, Montgomery, and Scioto counties before completing the report.

Contact Marlene Harris-Taylor at: mtaylor@theblade.com, 419-724-6091, or on Twitter @marlenetaylor48.

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