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Drug Use, Overdose Deaths Increased During Pandemic

Jacquelyn Martin
Associated Press

Drug Enforcement Administration officials say fentanyl remains a threat throughout Ohio and other parts of the country.

That information comes from the DEA’s 2020 National Drug Threat Assessment, showing the continued danger of illicit drugs throughout the U.S. that has caused a surge in overdose deaths in Ohio and elsewhere.

In 2020, at least 84% of overdose deaths in Franklin County involved fentanyl. In the first six months of 2020, overdoses increased more than 73% from the same time in 2019.

DEA acting administrator D. Christopher Evans says the COVID-19 pandemic is not stopping Mexican cartels and violent street gangs from peddling the drugs.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic plagues this nation, so, too, do transnational criminal organizations and violent street gangs, adjusting to pandemic restrictions to flood our communities with dangerous drugs,” Evans said in an emailed news release. “DEA and our local, state and federal partners continue to adapt to the everchanging landscape, remaining focused on the current threats and looking to the horizon for emerging threats.”

Authorities say while fentanyl and other drugs like it from China have decreased substantially following action by the DEA, the opioid threat is still at epidemic levels. They add more stimulant drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine are becoming available to users.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report more than 83,000 people lost their lives to drug-related overdoses from July 2019 to July 2020. That’s 13,000 more than the previous year.

The U.S. Attorney's Office has launched a messaging campaign called Find Awareness Project to warn the public about the dangers of fentanyl and where to get help.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.