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Dispatch: Franklin County overdose deaths jump 47 percent in 2017

From The Columbus Dispatch

By Mary Beth Lane

Franklin County had 520 overdose deaths last year, including 66.5 percent related to fentanyl, county Coroner Dr. Anahi M. Ortiz said.

Ortiz issued the preliminary overdose numbers for 2017 on Tuesday. “We have seen approximately a 47.3 percent increase in overdose deaths from 2016 to 2017,” she reported. “Fueling this increase is fentanyl.”

“That doesn’t surprise me, unfortunately,” said Andrew Moss, director of the Maryhaven Addiction and Stabilization Center in Merion Village.

Fentanyl is an increasingly prevalent and powerful synthetic opioid that’s often added to other drugs. Users expecting a high from cocaine, methamphetamine or heroin may not know that fentanyl is in the mix.

Others may seek out fentanyl because of its potency.

“The nature of addiction is it pushes toward the most-extreme high possible, and the longer that people use, their tolerance increases and their brains and their bodies require higher levels just to feel normal,” Moss said. “When powerful substances like fentanyl become available, people become drawn to that.”

Details within the preliminary numbers for 2017 show:

• Fentanyl-related overdose deaths accounted for 66.5 percent of all overdoses compared to 2016, when it accounted for 40.7 percent of all deaths.

• Cocaine-related overdose deaths were 36 percent of all overdose deaths, compared to 34 percent in 2016.

• Methamphetamine-related overdose deaths were 4.6 percent of all overdose deaths, compared to 2 percent in 2016.

• Heroin-related overdose deaths decreased to 16 percent of all overdose deaths, compared to 40.7 percent in 2016.

Overall in 2017, Ortiz said, opiate-related deaths accounted for 81 percent of overdose deaths, compared to 75.3 percent in 2016.

People under 39 made up 56 percent of the overdose deaths, compared to 50 percent in 2016. Among the overdose deaths, 68 percent were male and 32 percent female, compared to 78 percent male and 22 percent female in 2016.

White males were 78 percent of the overdose deaths, with African-American males accounting for 20 percent and others for 2 percent. The composition was similar in 2016, with white males accounting for 79.6 percent of the overdose deaths, African-American males for 19.2 percent and others for 1.2 percent.

The five Zip codes in Franklin County with the highest number of overdose deaths continue to be: 43207, 43223, 43232, 43211 and 43204.

The Maryhaven Addiction and Stabilization Center has seen about 300 people since opening on Jan. 19, Moss said.

“We’re grateful these clients have seen an opportunity to begin long-term recovery rather than get caught up in these waves of overdoses,” he said.

The statistics are posted on the coroner’s website at: https://coroner.franklincountyohio.gov

People who want help with addiction may call Maryhaven’s main number at 614-445-8131 or visit maryhaven.com.

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