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Drug Overdose Deaths Rise in Ohio

A record number of Ohioans died from drug-overdoses in 2012. The biggest factor has been a dramatic increase in the number of heroin-related deaths, a shift from prescription painkillers.

"Pills are becoming more scarce, and the supply of heroin is increasing, the purity of heroin is increasing. People are making the switch," said Christy Beeghly, the administrator of the Ohio Department of Health's Violence and Injury Prevention program.

680 people died of heroin overdoses in 2012, up 60 percent from the 426 deaths in 2011.

"We've gone back to the mid-70s, and you just don't see anything even coming close to the numbers that we're facing now," she said.

The heroin increase also drove the overall number of fatal drug overdoses to a new record of 1,272 deaths in 2012, up from 1,154 the previous year. At the same time, the number of deadly prescription painkiller overdose deaths decreased for the first time in a decade. Beeghly credits a crackdown on pill mills.

As the state began to make inroads on the prescription drug issue, the heroin issue popped up. In addition to being more widely available than prescription drugs, it's also cheaper for addicts to get.

"There's always going to be another drug, unfortunately," Beeghly said.

The state is putting the same effort into cracking down on heroin as was put into the fight against prescription painkillers. One possible solution is the drug Naloxone. 

"Naloxone is the antidote to an opioid overdose. It basically reverses the respiratory depression that opioids cause," she said.

Brown County had the highest drug death rate in the state at nearly 30 percent. Franklin County led the state in the number of drug-overdose deaths with 1,097.

 

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