Ohio drug overdose deaths increase to 3,050 in 2015

Drugs and drug paraphernalia recovered during search warrant (Photo: Darke County Sheriff's Office)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio officials say accidental drug overdoses killed a record 3,050 people in the state last year, or an average of eight per day.

Over one-third of those were linked to the powerful painkiller fentanyl. A report released Thursday shows fentanyl-related deaths more than doubled from 2014, pushing the overdose toll to a record.

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The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services’ medical director says Ohio’s addictions epidemic can only be dealt with through prevention, intervention, treatment and use of life-saving measures such as an overdose antidote.

“Ohio was one of the first states to see the rise of fentanyl over the past couple of years, as the opiate epidemic continues to evolve to more powerful drugs,” said Dr. Mark Hurst, medical director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. “We knew when we started this battle five years ago that progress wouldn’t be easy, but we are well prepared to stay on the leading edge of fighting this epidemic thanks to the multi-faceted strategies we have put into place.”

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Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic narcotic that is estimated to be 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin, and 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. The vast majority of fentanyl reports by law enforcement in drug seizures result from illegally produced and trafficked fentanyl, not diverted prescription fentanyl.

Officials concede the problem has grown, but they have hope of making headway. They point to progress in curbing prescription opiate abuse and say they’re working to improve access to the antidote and drug treatment and recovery resources.

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