Preliminary data points to worrisome trend statewide
Too early to tell with certainty
WARNING: Ohio appears to be in the middle of a significant surge in overdose death that began late last year. The increase reverses the sharp decline in death that occurred from July 2017 through July 2018. (That drop was the result of carfentanil leaving the Ohio drug supply.)
I will report more details on the overdose spike on Harm Reduction Ohio’s web site tomorrow, but I wanted to get this warning out today. The early data is alarming. It also supports credible anecdotal reports since the beginning of the year from coroners in Dayton, Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati.
What’s causing increased overdose death? That is not clear. HRO is waiting for drug seizure data from the state crime labs for the first quarter of 2019. That could shed light on the cause of increasing overdose and, more importantly, how to limit the harm.
You should look closely at both charts attached to this post.
The first chart shows monthly changes in overdose deaths through March 2019 as reported, so far, in the Ohio Department of Health’s mortality database. The bar chart shows the monthly difference in overdose deaths reported in Ohio through today vs. what was reported at the same time. (A blue bar is good; that means overdose death fell in the month vs. a year earlier. A red bar means deaths increased.)
Caution: The more recent the time period, the smaller the data set and the lower the confidence in the number. To reflect this, I faded the color of the bars to indicate that you should view more recent months with extra caution. However, when people are dying, it is not responsible to wait for perfection or absolute certainty.
The second chart uses provisional overdose data from the Centers for Disease Control. The chart shows monthly changes in Ohio overdose deaths that occurred in the previous 12 months. The data runs through September 2018, so it has picked up the end to declining overdoses but has not registered the increase that appears to have started last December.
What does this information mean for people who use drugs? Be extraordinarily careful. Never use alone. ALWAYS have Narcan around, whether you’re using an opioid, cocaine, meth or a pill that you didn’t get yourself from the drug store. (Marijuana is the only fentanyl-free drug in Ohio.) And if you’ve been abstinent from opioids for awhile, be ultra-careful if you use again.
Drug prohibition creates a drug supply that is unpredictable in content and dose. The drug war’s goal may not have been to kill masses of people by contaminating a product consumed annually by 1.3 million Ohioans, but that is its effect. Don’t let the next victim be you. — Dennis Cauchon, President, Harm Reduction Ohio
Originally published as Facebook Post, April 15, 2019