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Drug Deaths Dropped Significantly In Ohio In 2018

A map showing the rates per capita of drug deaths in each of Ohio's 88 counties. The report was released by the Ohio Department of Health in December.
A map showing the rates per capita of drug deaths in each of Ohio's 88 counties. The report was released by the Ohio Department of Health in December.

Deadly drug overdoses in Ohio fell nearly 22 percent in 2018, to the lowest number in three years. And overdose deaths dropped in every category of drugs except one.

The Ohio Department of Health says 3,764 Ohioans died of drug overdoses in 2018. While that’s still more than 10 people a day, it’s down from 4,854 the year before, or more than 13 a day. And death totals fell in almost every category of drugs – including opioids.  

But there was a 5 percent increase in deaths from psychostimulants such as meth and cocaine – two thirds of those involved fentanyl, which turned up in three quarters of all overdose deaths. But the actual number of fentanyl deaths dropped, and the number involving the even more deadly carfentanil plummeted to just under 3 percent.

Black non-Hispanic women had the lowest overdose death rates, while black non-Hispanic men had the highest rates for the second year in a row. 35-44 year olds made up three quarters of the total who died.

Six of the 10 counties with the highest per capita death rates are in southwest Ohio, with Montgomery County – home to Dayton and long considered the state’s capital of the opioid epidemic – had the highest percentage.  

But overdose deaths there were almost cut in half between 2017 and 2018. Drug deaths also dropped in the urban counties of Cuyahoga, Hamilton, Lucas and Mahoning, but went up 10 percent in Franklin County.

The state’s annual count of drug overdose deaths was released quietly last month, in contrast to previous reports that were introduced in press conferences.

Copyright 2020 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.
Karen Kasler
Contact Karen at 614/578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.