Overdose deaths fall about 23% from 2017

Source: Harm Reduction Ohio analysis of Ohio Department of Health mortality data

How many people died of drug overdoses in 2018? We get asked that almost every day. The answer is about 3,800.

The death toll for for 2018 is not final, but it’s very close. A Harm Reduction Ohio analysis of the state’s mortality data found 3,758 Ohioans reported to have died of accidental overdoses in 2018, a 23% decline from 4,854 in 2018. The Ohio Department of Health updates the database every Monday.

The 3,758 deaths in 2018 will be the final number or very close to it.The Ohio Department of Health usually announces the previous year’s death toll in September. But the big picture is clear: it’s fair to say nearly 3,800 Ohio residents died of drug overdoses in 2018, more than any year except 2016 and 2017.

Annual numbers can be a little deceptive because trends change fast. The sharp decline in overdose deaths occurred in the second half of 2017 and the first half of 2018. Deaths started to rise again in late 2018 and appear to be increasing, perhaps sharply, in 2019.

All illegal drugs except marijuana are extremely dangerous in Ohio, probably more dangerous than in any other state in the country. Ohio has a history of adding more fentanyl analogs (especially carfentanil) to its drug supply than anywhere else in the USA. It really is “an Ohio thing.” (The bulk of the deadly mixing is happening here, in Ohio, not in a foreign land and brought here. If you’re interested, see stories on here, here and elsewhere.)

ALL drugs in Ohio — except marijuana — may contain fentanyl or an analog. This includes (in order of likelihood) heroin, cocaine, meth, benzos and MDMA. Overall, fentanyl and its analogs were involved in 73% of 2018 overdose deaths, about the same portion as in 2018.

Marijuana is safe. Fentanyl-laced marijuana is a myth, despite repeated reports by people who should know better.

If using anything other than cannabis, you can reduce your risk of dying by following these harm reduction practices:
* Use fentanyl test strips, especially on cocaine, meth and fake pills.
* Take much, much smaller doses (or none at all). You can always consume more; you can never consume less.
* Never use alone.
* Always have naloxone around, even if you don’t use opioids.
* Avoid alcohol, especially when consuming benzos and heroin.

OHIO PROBLEM: Harm Reduction Ohio will be purchasing 1,200 fentanyl test strips shortly when the money from our Facebook fundraiser arrives. However, we currently have none. At the moment, some Ohio health departments and syringe programs — Columbus, Cleveland, Dayton, Portsmouth — provide fentanyl test strips. But, sadly and inexplicably, fentanyl test strips are rare in our state.


This article was originally published on Harm Reduction Ohio’s Facebook page on Monday, June 24. 

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