Deaths fall for White residents, increase for Black residents

A total of 2,265 overdose deaths of Ohio residents have been confirmed and reported so far in 2023, according to data in the Ohio Department of Health mortality data. That’s almost exactly the same number as had been reported at this time in 2022 when 4,914 Ohio residents died from accidental drug overdoses.

Last year’s overdose death toll was the third worst on record, exceeded only by 5,174 deaths in 2021 and 5,017 deaths in 2022. By comparison, in 2010, when the crackdown on prescription opioids started in earnest, “only” 1,544 Ohio residents died from drug overdoses.

The last three months of 2022 has the most overdose deaths ever recorded for the months of October, November and December.

Overdose trends: Black and White

In recent years, the racial demographic of overdose death has changed dramatically. In the early years of the prescription opioid crackdown, White Ohioans did at disproportionately high rates. That trend started to reverse itself in 2015. By 2018, Black residents had higher overdose death rates than White residents in Ohio. Since then, the racial gap has grown more extreme.

In 2022, overdose deaths among White residents declined 8.8%, from 4,124 to 3,763. Meanwhile, deaths among Black residents increased 6.6%, from 974 to 1040 in 2022. By comparison, 249 Black residents died in Ohio in 2014.

The trend of overdose deaths declining among Ohio’s White population while increasing among our state’s Black population has continued in 2023, according to the state’s preliminary mortality data.

Overdose trends by county

So far in 2023, these counties have experienced noteworthy increases in overdose deaths compared to 2022:

  • Montgomery
  • Stark
  • Summit
  • Trumbull
  • Ashtabula
  • Perry
  • Columbiana
  • Adams

These counties have experienced noteworthy decreases in overdose deaths so far in 2023 compared to 2022:

  • Butler
  • Licking
  • Lake
  • Richland
  • Washington
  • Ottawa
  • Hancock
  • Licking

The county-level changes should be viewed with caution. The numbers cover only part of the year and data reporting quirks can make preliminary data somewhat unreliable, especially in counties with small populations.

That said, northeast Ohio (Youngstown-Akron-Canton-Warren) seems to be experiencing increased overdose death in 2023 while, in general, overdose death declines tend to be in central Ohio.


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