Increase in Deaths from Heroin Reinforce Need for Ongoing Efforts

Last updated: May 06. 2014 6:47PM - 256 Views

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COLUMBUS – Ohio’s efforts to combat the abuse of prescription painkillers are paying off and new data released today by the Ohio Department of Health show that the number of deaths from unintended overdoses of prescription opiates declined in 2012 for the first time since 2003. At the same time, however, information also shows an alarming increase in the number of deaths from overdoses of illegal opiates such as heroin, reinforcing the need for ongoing efforts to combat both the supply and demand of illegal drugs in Ohio.

“Ohio’s making a difference against prescription drug abuse because so many people have come together at the local and state level, in education, law enforcement, health care and the treatment community. When we make up our mind to do something important like this we can do it. We need to remember that as Ohio continues to work with its partners to combat illegal drugs like heroin, it’s clear that the problems we once saw in prescription drugs are, in part, migrating to illegal drugs,” said Lance Himes, Interim Director of the Ohio Department of Health. “Ohio’s Start Talking! campaign has been well received and its mission, as well as the work of so many other state and local leaders on drug abuse prevention, is essential if we want to see the

same drop in illegal drug deaths as we’re seeing in prescription drug deaths.”

In 2012 there were 697 deaths from unintended overdoses of prescription opiates, down from 789 in 2011, a decline of nearly 12 percent. This is the first decline since 2003 when there were 221 deaths.

Until 2012 there had been a steady increase in drug overdose deaths, with deaths rising 366 percent between

2000 and 2012. Prescription drugs were the largest part of that increase. The 2012 data reveals a significant shift in this trend, however, with a decline in prescription opioid-related overdose deaths contrasted by an increase in heroin-related deaths. Overall, unintentional drug overdoses caused 1,914 deaths.

“We’re encouraged by the drop in prescription drug-related deaths, but our work is not finished,” said Orman Hall, director of the Governor’s Cabinet Opiate Action Team (GCOAT). “Ohio, like the rest of the nation, has seen a surge in the availability and use of heroin and, accordingly, the state is shifting its focus to provide pathways to treatment for those Ohioans struggling with addiction and to work even harder to prevent substance abuse before it starts.”

Recent efforts to combat opioid abuse in Ohio include the launch of the Start Talking! program, establishment of a six-county drug court pilot for treatment of opiate abuse and the funding of a pilot to improve health outcomes and reduce costs associated with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).

Complete drug overdose death data from 2012 is available on the ODH website at http://www.healthy.ohio.gov/vipp/data/rxdata.aspx

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