Overdose deaths declined in early 2022 before rising in summer

Deaths could fall below 5,000 for first time since 2019


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

Today, Harm Reduction Ohio issued its first projection of expected overdose deaths in Ohio in 2022. The estimate is based on the pace of overdose deaths reported and confirmed through October 17, 2022.

At the current pace, overdose deaths in Ohio will fall 5.7% from the record pace of 2021 and drop below 5,000 for the first time since Covid. Last year at this time, Harm Reduction Ohio reported Ohio was on track to suffer 5,189 overdose deaths in 2021. The final tally was 5,173 deaths in 2021.

Our first projection for 2022 has a somewhat higher degree of uncertainty because the pace of overdose death has changed as the year has moved along. Deaths fell in the first five months of 2022 but appear to have increased since June.

Why overdose deaths rise and fall can’t be determined until more information is available. Fluctuating rates of fentanyl in Ohio’s drug supply is what drives changes in overdose death, both up and down.Harm Reduction Ohio will report in November on the most recent levels of fentanyl found in our state’s drug supply.

What you should know from this projection:

  • Overdose deaths fell toward the end of 2021 and the start of 2022. However, overdose death seems to have increased since May. More data are needed to know for sure.
  • Ohio is in a stimulant-driven overdose crisis. Meth and cocaine made up 58.1% in 2022 vs. 18.6% in 2012. Fentanyl is involved in 80% of stimulant deaths, so the interplay of stimulants and opioids makes limiting overdose death harder.
  • Heroin-related deaths are now uncommon in Ohio. In 2022, fewer than 100 Ohioans will die from heroin-related overdoses, down from 1,444 in 2016. Fentanyl and its analogs have completely displaced heroin. Harm Reduction Ohio estimates that only 14 overdose deaths will involve heroin but not fentanyl in 2022.
  • Remember: fentanyl-laced marijuana isn’t true. Cannabis, alcohol, tobacco and caffeine are the only commonly used drugs that do not carry fentanyl risk. The risk of fentanyl in psychedelics is currently extremely low, too.

You can order naloxone, a drug that will reverse a fentanyl overdose, at Harm Reduction Ohio’s web site. In cooperation with the Ohio Department of health, we provide naloxone at no cost to those who order it.

Be careful. Five thousand accidental overdose deaths a year in Ohio is not normal or acceptable. The drug war is killing people who use drugs in what should be considered genocide against an unpopular group. We love people who use drugs and want you to live a long and happy life.


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