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Ohio's drug death rate second highest in the nation

By Catherine Candisky • Nov 30, 2018 at 3:30 PM

Ohio had the second highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation last year — second only to West Virginia, according to new federal figures.

The data brief from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported there were 70,234 drug deaths nationwide in 2017, a rate of 21.7 per 100,000 people. That's up from a 19.8 rate in 2016, and more than three times the rate a decade ago.

Ohio — which has spent $1 billion a year combating the opioid epidemic — was one of 20 states and the District of Columbia above the national average. Ohio's death rate of of 46.3 per 100,000 residents only trailed trailing West Virginia at 57.8. Pennsylvania was third at 44.3 deaths per 100,000 people and the District of Columbia was fourth at 44.0.

The lowest rate was Nebraska at 8.1 deaths per 100,000 people.

In September, state health officials reported that fatal drug overdoses rose for the eighth year in a row in 2017 with 4,854 deaths, a 20-percent increase over 2016's toll. Federal officials cited 5,111 drug deaths in Ohio last year. The state only counts unintentional drug deaths, while federal authorities include other drug-involved deaths, including suicide and homicide.

Synthetic opioids continue to fuel the drug epidemic in Ohio and elsewhere.

The deadly synthetic fentanyl accounted for nearly three-fourths of Ohio drug deaths, killing 3,431 people in 2017, 46-percent more than in the previous year, according to data compiled by the state Department of Health.

Nationally, the CDC reported, the rate of synthetic opioid deaths rose 45 percent between 2016 and 2017.

Fatal drug overdose rates increased in every age group last year, according to federal figures. The rate was highest among those ages 35 to 44, and the lowest for those age 65 and over. The rate among men was twice as high as for women.

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©2018 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

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