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County Coroner Says Overdose Deaths Are Spiking, With Fentanyl To Blame

New Hampshire State Forensic Lab

The coroner serving the greater Columbus area says overdose deaths blamed largely on opioids are spiking compared to a year ago.

Franklin County Coroner Dr. Anahi Ortiz said Tuesday the county saw 173 overdose deaths through April of this year.

"They show a 66 percent increase from the same period last year of overdose deaths," Ortiz says of the data. "The majority are related to opiates."

Ortiz says most of the opioid-related deaths involved the painkiller fentanyl, or a fentanyl analog, which has been blamed for many overdose deaths in Ohio and across the country.

"They're much more concentrated," Ortiz says. "It's a more potent type of opiate and a much smaller amount is needed to cause an overdose, as opposed to, say, heroin or morphine."

Ortiz says if the trend continues more than 500 people could die of overdoses in the county this year, compared to 353 last year. She says she's not sure when, if ever, the trend will start to reverse.

The state says more than 3,050 Ohioans died of overdoses in 2015, the last year for which the Health Department has complete data.

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.