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Report: Meth-Related Overdose Deaths Spike In Ohio

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A new report from a group of Ohio researchers documents an explosion in the number of overdose deaths involving methamphetamines and amphetamines.

The report says psychostimulants were found in nine unintentional overdose deaths in 2010. That number rose to 509 in 2017, a staggering increase of 5,556 percent.

Ohio University professor Orman Hall, who helped write the report, says the vast majority of deaths involving psychoostimulants and cocaine also involved opioids, specifically fentanyl.

Researchers say between 2010 and 2017, Wayne County had the highest percentage of overdose deaths that included a psychostimulant, at 17.2 percent, followed by Pike County with 14.5 percent and Wyandot County with 14.3 percent.

“This research is invaluable because it gives us deeper understanding, and an early warning indicator, in the ongoing drug crisis,” said Rick Hodges, director of the Ohio Alliance For Innovation In Public Health.

A press release from the Alliance included comments from Dennis Lowe, commander of a police Major Crimes Unit that serves Athens, Hocking and Fairfield counties. Lowe blamed much of the increase on Mexican drug cartels, which are finding methamphetamine to be profitable.

“They’ve almost single-handedly eliminated meth labs in the state of Ohio. We see one every few months now where we used to seize over 100 in a year,” Lowe is quoted as saying. “People are getting a better quality product and it’s cheaper to buy from a cartel.”

Other findings in the report include:

  • Overdose deaths that included cocaine rose 617 percent from 212 in 2010 to 1,520 in 2017. Seventy percent of the overdose deaths involving cocaine in 2017 occurred with fentanyl and 81 percent occurred with some form of opioid. Thirty-two percent of all unintentional overdose deaths included cocaine in 2017.
  • Franklin County had the highest percentage of overdose deaths from 2010-2017 that included cocaine, at 36.1 percent. Seven other counties had more than 30 percent of overdose deaths involving cocaine: Cuyahoga, Lorain, Mahoning, Clark, Darke, Ross and Hamilton.
  • While Caucasians had a higher rate (12 percent) of a psychostimulant mention in 2017 than African Americans (2 percent), a mention of cocaine in overdose deaths rated higher among African Americans (54 percent) than Caucasians (28.8 percent).