CLEVELAND, Ohio– Overdose deaths in Cuyahoga County are predicted to hit at least 825 in 2017, a 25 percent increase from the year before, according to the county medical examiner’s office. And the death toll could be as high as 850.
“The problem is not getting better,” County Medical Examiner Thomas Gilson said at a meeting this week to promote the rollout of Take Charge Ohio, a statewide ad campaign designed to reduce opioid prescriptions. “And from our discussions with other coroners across the state, it’s not getting better in their communities either.”
Last year 666 people in the county died of drug overdoses, with 399 of those involving fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opiate.
In October, at least 31 people died of overdoses in the county, with a ruling still pending on another 33 possible overdose deaths. As of mid-November, another 18 people had overdosed and died.
Gilson noted that deaths due to the non-prescription opioids such as heroin, fentanyl and its cousin carfentanil are still driving the increase in deaths in the county: at least 454 people in 2017 have died from an overdose of one or more of these drugs.
But, he pointed out, the majority of people who died still started with legally prescribed medications.
“We have made progress in terms of reducing the number of prescription opioids per capita in the state,” he said. “[But] we still prescribe at least at a level two to three times what we did in the 1990’s, when pain became the fifth vital sign.”
Deaths due to overdose from opioid pain medications in the county haven’t changed much over the past seven years.
“I take some comfort from that because I think that the interventions probably are having some effect, but I can take no comfort in the fact that we’ve substituted things like heroin and fentanyl into that mixture,” Gilson said.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: http://www.cleveland.com/healthfit/index.ssf/2017/11/cuyahoga_county_overdose_death.html