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Health & Science

Ohio's Overdose Crisis Extends Beyond Opioids

Andrea Boxill

The nature of the drug abuse driving Ohio’s state-wide overdose epidemic is more complex than opioids, according to the state official in charge of understanding it.

Well over half of the 4,050 overdose deaths in Ohio last year involved drug mixtures. Heroin or other opioids were common in the lethal combinations. But in a quarter of them, the durug was non-opioid cocaine -- often with  the hyper-potent pain killer fentanyl added.   

Andrea Boxill, deputy director of the Governor’s Cabinet Opioid action team, says that’s dangerous business. “Anytime you use an illicit drug, there’s really no safety valve.  It’s not as if you have the FDA monitoring and regulating cocaine and its potency. So, using substances illegally, you’re always taking a chance.”

Naloxone, broadly used to reverse opioid overdoses, does not work with cocaine and is normally only effective with fentanyl within a minute or two of ingestion of the drug.