The Opioid Epidemic In Ohio

Kimberly Langdon, M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Kimberly Langdon, M.D.

on December 10, 2022

In 2017, the United States Department of Health and Human Services declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. Since then, the state of Ohio has often been referred to as “ground zero” for the opioid crisis.

Opioids are powerful painkillers that pose a high risk of abuse, addiction, and overdose. When prescriptions for opioids rose in the 1990s, so did opioid addictions and overdose deaths. Since that time, those rates have skyrocketed, leading to an opioid epidemic. 

In 2017, the United States Department of Health and Human Services declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. This epidemic has devastated the entire nation, including Ohio.

The Opioid Epidemic In Ohio

In 2015, the state of Ohio reported more opioid overdose deaths than any other state (3,050), which is why it’s often called “ground zero” for the opioid crisis. 

The following year, Ohio continued to top the country in the number of deaths involving opioids. In Lorain County, which is west of Cleveland, over 130 people died of opioid-related deaths, more than twice the rate in 2015. 

In addition, according to a study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, opioid overdoses in 2016 lowered the average lifespan of Ohioans by 0.97 years.

Since then, opioids have continued to claim numerous lives. 

2020 Opioid Overdose Deaths

In 2020, at least 5,215 Ohioans died from drug overdoses, which is almost 22% higher than the state’s 2019 drug overdose death rate. About 4,400 of those overdose deaths involved opioids

Also, during the second quarter of 2020, Ohio saw the highest number of opioid overdose deaths in a decade, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Many people who overdose on opioids get the drugs from prescribing physicians and abuse them (use them in a manner not prescribed). For example, they might: 

  • use them more often than prescribed
  • use higher doses than prescribed
  • mix them with other drugs
  • crush the pills and snort them 

When their prescription runs out, they might turn to other doctors for refills (a practice called “doctor shopping”). They may also start buying opioids on the street. 

Like other types of substance abuse, opioid abuse can quickly lead to addiction (also called substance use disorder). This disease makes you feel unable to stop using opioids and significantly increases your risk of overdose. 

Types Of Opioids

There are three main types of opioids:

Natural Opiates

Natural opiates are chemical compounds derived from the opium poppy plant. Examples include codeine, morphine, and thebaine.

Semi-Synthetic Opioids

Semi-synthetic opioids are made from natural opiates. They include prescription drugs like oxycodone (which is often prescribed under the brand names OxyContin and Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, and Norco), and hydromorphone (Dilaudid and Exalgo). 

Another popular semi-synthetic opioid is the illegal drug heroin. Some people who become addicted to prescription opioids eventually turn to heroin because it’s cheaper and more accessible. 

Fully Synthetic Opioids

Fully synthetic opioids are entirely human-made. Examples include tramadol (often prescribed under the brand names ConZip and Ultram), pethidine (Demerol), and fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze). 

Fentanyl is widely considered one of the most deadly opioids. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. It contributes to a large majority of drug overdose fatalities. 

Because fentanyl is relatively cheap to produce, many drug dealers secretly add it to drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. This strategy increases the drug’s weight, allowing dealers to charge more. It has also led numerous people to unknowingly ingest fentanyl and die of unintentional drug overdoses. 

How To Fight The Opioid Epidemic In Ohio

According to law enforcement and other public health officials, you can take the following steps to end Ohio’s opioid epidemic:

Know The Signs Of Opioid Overdose

Even a small amount of opioids can cause a deadly overdose. The most common symptoms of an opioid overdose include:

  • pale, clammy skin
  • bluish lips and/or fingernails
  • nausea and vomiting
  • slowed or stopped breathing
  • slowed or stopped heartbeat
  • loss of consciousness

If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, call 911 right away. 

Get Narcan

Naloxone (brand name Narcan) is a medication that can rapidly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. It’s often used by first responders. However, you don’t have to be a medical professional to use it. 

The drug is available at most pharmacies without a prescription. Your pharmacist or health care provider can show you how to use it. 

Seek Treatment For Opioid Addiction 

Like other types of addiction, opioid addiction is treatable. However, some people don’t realize they have the disease. That’s why it’s important to know the symptoms, which include:

  • strong cravings for opioids
  • tolerance (needing increasingly larger or more frequent amounts of opioids to feel the desired effects)
  • physical dependence (experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety and nausea, when you don’t use opioids)
  • loss of motivation
  • loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed

If you or someone you love shows these signs, seek help at an addiction treatment center. These centers offer a variety of interventions to help people recover from drug abuse, including medical detox, mental health counseling, and support groups. 

If you or a loved one struggles with opioid use or another type of drug use, please contact Ohio Recovery Center. Our behavioral health care providers offer personalized, compassionate care to help you stay healthy and drug-free.

  1. Altarum Institute - Addressing the Opioid Crisis in Ohio
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Fentanyl Facts,nonfatal%20overdoses%20in%20the%20U.S.&text=There%20are%20two%20types%20of,Both%20are%20considered%20synthetic%20opioids
  3. Journal of Addiction Medicine - Years of Life Lost due to Opioid Overdose in Ohio: Temporal and Geographic Patterns of Excess Mortality
  4. Ohio Attorney General - Record Surges in Opioid Overdoses Prompts AG Yost to Urge Vigilance
  5. Ohio Department of Health - Drug Overdose
  6. Ohio State University - Opioid Epidemic in Ohio – Extension in Action,prevention%20of%20opioid%20abuse%20statewide

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

Prefer Texting?
We've got you covered.

Receive 24/7 text support right away.
There is no obligation and you can opt out at any time.

Sign up for text support

Receive 24/7 text support right away.
There is no obligation and you can opt out at any time.
Let us walk you through the treatment process. We're here to help.
For 24/7 Treatment Help:
100% Free & Confidential. Call (419) 904-4158
(419) 904-4158