Opiate Abuse in Ohio

Opiate abuse in Ohio is epidemic.

Watch Little Pill, Big Problem: Ohio's Opiate Story.

Opioids are chemicals that originate from the poppy flower and its product opium. They are analgesics (pain relievers) that work by binding to specific receptors in the brain, the same receptors as natural endorphins, to decrease the perception of pain and increase pain tolerance. They belong to the central nervous system depressant classification of drugs, which produce sedation and respiratory depression. This drug class includes prescription pain relievers (e.g., oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone, fentanyl, codeine, morphine, tramadol) and heroin.

Physical dependence on opioids develops with long-term use, which can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms upon abrupt discontinuation of use. Due to increasing tolerance levels and the feeling of euphoria these drugs can produce, opioids can lead to abuse and overdose as individuals must take increasing doses of medication in order to attain the same results such as euphoria, pain relief, and normalcy.

When compared to previous drug overdose epidemics, the current prescription drug epidemic is responsible for considerably more deaths. Mortality rates are currently four to five times higher than the rates during the “black tar” heroin epidemic in the mid-1970s and more than three times what they were during the peak years of the crack cocaine epidemic in the early 1990s.

(Ohio Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force Recommendations, October 1, 2010. Go to Ohio Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force Final Report to download the complete report.)

ODH Releases 2012 Drug Overdose Data

Unintentional drug overdoses caused 1,914 deaths in Ohio in 2012--surpassing the previous highest number (1,765) in 2011 by 8.4 percent--according to a new report released by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). According to ODH, heroin-involved deaths increased from 16 percent (233) in 2008 to 35.5 percent (680) of all drug overdoses, reinforcing the need for ongoing efforts to combat both the supply and demand of illegal drugs in Ohio. At the same time, data show that the number of deaths from unintended overdoses of prescription opiates declined in 2012 for the first time since 2003. ODH researchers reported a 12 percent reduction in prescription drug overdoses compared to 2011 (697 deaths in 2012 vs. 789 deaths in 2011).

“Ohio’s making a difference against prescription drug abuse because so many people have come together at the local and state level, in education, law enforcement, health care and the treatment community. When we make up our mind to do something important like this we can do it. We need to remember that as Ohio continues to work with its partners to combat illegal drugs like heroin, it’s clear that the problems we once saw in prescription drugs are, in part, migrating to illegal drugs,” said Lance Himes, Interim Director of the Ohio Department of Health. “Ohio’s Start Talking! campaign has been well received and its mission, as well as the work of so many other state and local leaders on drug abuse prevention, is essential if we want to see the same drop in illegal drug deaths as we’re seeing in prescription drug deaths.”

NBC News Presents a Rare, In-Depth Portrait of the Changing Culture of Heroin Abuse

Starting Monday, April 7, 2014 NBC News began a special multi-platform series—“Hooked: America’s Heroin Epidemic”—revealing intimate portraits of recovering and current addicts who reflect on the changing face of heroin use. NBC traveled to several cities to tell the story of what one doctor called the "cultural change" of rising heroin use.  Viewers will see how NBC was able to gain access to a treatment courtroom, where sentences are focused on getting help for offenders and breaking the cycle of substance abuse. NBCNews.com featured an original animation that shows how the Narcan antidote drug works to reverse an overdose. Social media users can join the conversation and share their thoughts on how heroin has touched their lives with the hashtag #HeroinInAmerica. To see more on NBC’s coverage on heroin abuse, click here.

Local law enforcement and the Drug-Free Delaware Coalition collaborated to place NADDI approved drug drop-off boxes at 4 law enforcement agencies. Residents may use these boxes to safely dispose of unused or outdated medicines.

Drug Drop-off Box Locations
* Delaware City Police Department, located in LOBBY, 70 N. Union St., Delaware, OH 43015
* Delaware County Sheriff--Jail, located in LOBBY, 844 US Hwy 42 North, Delaware, OH 43015
* Genoa Township Police Department, located in LOBBY, 7049 Big Walnut Rd., Galena, OH 43021
* Shawnee Hills Police Department, located in LOBBY, 40 W. Reindeer Dr., Shawnee Hills, OH 43065
* Sunbury Police Department, located in LOBBY, 9 W. Granville St., Sunbury, OH  43074
-----Only pills and patches accepted - no liquids, syringes or needles.-----

Nearly half (45%) of fatal overdoses involved prescription opioids in 2010, compared to 39% in 2009. Prescription painkillers accounted for 45% of Ohio’s 1,544 overdose deaths in 2010. The Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring (OSAM) Network reports a move from prescription painkillers to heroin among opiate abusers. Heroin is highly available in all regions of the state (ODADAS, OSAM Network, 2011). In 2010, 67 doses of opiates were prescribed for every man, woman, and child in the state of Ohio (OARRS report).

Comparing January-March 2012 to January-March 2011:

  • 60% increase in heroin seizures
  • 41% increase in prescription narcotics seizures
  • 27% increase in drug arrests—current total is 2,613 drug arrests
  • 9% increase in OVI arrests—current total is 8,145 OVI arrests
    (Ohio Department of Public Safety / Ohio Highway Patrol)

    An excellent description of opioid history and addiction.

  • In Delaware County, 3.5% of 2009-10 high school students reported using heroin (Delaware County Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2009).
  • Delaware County residents averaged 46.6 doses of prescribed analgesic (pain relief) medications in 2010, representing a 6.8% increase over 2008 and a 4.7% increase over 2009 (OARRS report).
  • In Delaware County during the second quarter of 2014, 1,856,521 doses of opiates and pain relievers were dispensed, which amounts to an average of over 129 doses per patient and nearly 10.7 doses per person for the entire population (OARRS report). This represents a 3.2% increase in the amount dispensed over the previous quarter, but a 2.0% reduction over the same time period in 2013. It was also significantly lower than the statewide average of nearly 151 doses per patient and 16.5 doses per person.


Teens and Prescription Drug Abuse

  • Young adults aged 12-17 report that the most popular way to access opiate drugs is through family or friends.
  • In 2011, more than one in five (21%) Ohio high school students reported using a prescription drug without a doctor’s prescription one or more times during their lives. Of these teens, nearly half (49%) used narcotic pain relievers, 8% used multiple drugs, and another 19% were unsure of what they took.*
  • Every day, 2,700 teens abuse a prescription drug for the first time.**
  • Eight out of ten teens who misuse prescription drugs get the drugs from friends or relatives.**

*ODH, Ohio Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2011
**SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health

National Increase in Medication Use and Misuse*

  • Two out of three patients who visit a doctor leave with at least one prescription for medication.
  • Nearly 3.4 billion prescriptions were dispensed in 2005, an increase of almost 60% since 1995.
  • Close to 40% receive prescriptions for four or more medications.
  • Half of prescriptions taken each year are used improperly.
  • 96% of patients fail to ask questions about how to use their medications.

*Institute for Safe Medication Practices