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State sees surge in opioid deaths

COLUMBUS — More Ohioans died of an opioid overdose during a three-month period last year than at any time since the epidemic began, according to an analysis by a task force created by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.

The analysis by Yost’s Scientific Committee on Opioid Prevention and Education (SCOPE) found the death rate in Ohio from opioid overdose at 11.01 per 100,000 population in the second quarter of 2020 — the  highest rate in 10 years. The previous 10-year high was in the first quarter of 2017 at 10.87 opioid overdoses per 100,000 population.

“Opioid overdoses might have taken a backseat in our minds last year because of COVID-19, but make no mistake: Ohioans are dying at a devastating rate because of opioid overdoses,” Yost said in a news release, urging vigilance about how prescription drugs are stored and encouraging people to seek medical care in the event of an overdose — despite concerns about COVID-19.

Surprisingly, the record-setting spike came after Ohio experienced a significant drop in its opioid-related death rate, which had fallen to between 6 and 8 overdose deaths per 100,000 people over the prior 24-month period.

“This is alarming data, and while COVID has rightly captured our attention, we cannot lose sight of the threat the opioid epidemic brings to all areas of Ohio,” Yost said.

The hardest hit counties in the second quarter of 2020 were Scioto (35.22), Fayette (20.67) and Franklin (19.43).

The data is gathered by the Ohio Department of Health, which collects opioid overdose numbers. The data may lag by up to six months.

Addiction to opioids can start with a prescription being brought inside the home. Yost’s office has released guidelines on how to safely store prescription drugs inside your residence.

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