The Ohio Opioid Crisis: Facts, Statistics, & Solutions

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A recent OSU (Ohio State University) study reveals that the opioid epidemic inflicts an annual financial toll on Ohio of almost $9 billion, a figure that parallels the state’s yearly expenditure on K-12 education. From 2014 to 2016, rates of opioid overdoses fatalities in Ohio were the highest in the United States.

Although statewide initiatives have diminished the prevalence of prescription opioid misuse, the opioid crisis in Ohio has evolved, shifting from heroin to fentanyl, an even more damaging synthetic opioid that’s many magnitudes stronger than other opioids. 

Understanding The Opioid Crisis in Ohio

Ohio’s struggle with the opioid crisis has deeply impacted communities across the state. This issue has evolved over the years, manifesting in various forms and requiring a nuanced approach to address effectively. The crisis has not only taken a significant human toll, with lives lost and families affected, but it has also imposed a substantial economic burden on the state.

The roots of the opioid crisis in Cincinnati, Ohio, and beyond can be traced back to the late 1990s and early 2000s when prescription opioids became much more widely available. These medications, marketed for their pain-relieving properties, were initially believed to be relatively safe. However, their addictive potential was grossly underestimated, leading to widespread misuse, dependence, and addiction in the form of opioid use disorder.

As measures to control prescription opioid misuse were implemented, individuals addicted to these medications began seeking alternatives. Heroin, cheaper and more accessible, emerged as a substitute for many. The transition from prescription opioids to heroin marked a significant escalation of the crisis, with heroin’s potency and the risk of overdose further compounding the public health emergency.

The crisis took an even more deadly turn with the introduction of fentanyl into the illicit drug supply. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is 50 times more potent than heroin and has been responsible for a surge in overdose deaths. Its inclusion – often undisclosed – in other drugs has made every instance of substance use potentially life-threatening.

Ohio has taken proactive steps to mitigate the opioid crisis, including regulating prescription practices, enhancing overdose prevention efforts, and expanding access to treatment and recovery services. Despite these efforts, the crisis’s evolution, from prescription opioids to heroin and fentanyl, presents ongoing challenges – more on this below. 

Why Is Ohio in an Opioid Crisis?

Ohio’s opioid crisis stems from a combination of factors including aggressive marketing of prescription opioids in the late 1990s, which led to widespread misuse and addiction. As regulations tightened around prescription drugs, those addicted turned to more accessible and cheaper alternatives like heroin, followed by the lethal narcotic fentanyl. The state’s geographical positioning also made it a key point in drug trafficking routes, exacerbating the issue. These elements, combined with socio-economic challenges, have further fueled the opioid crisis. 

Ohio Opioid Crisis Statistics

In 2020, Ohio witnessed a tragic surge in unintentional drug overdose deaths, with 5,017 lives lost, marking a 25% increase from the previous year. This rise was significant, even though it was slightly lower than the national average increase of 35%. The overwhelming majority of these fatalities – 81% – were attributed to illicit fentanyl or its analogs, often in conjunction with other substances.

Among various demographic groups, black non-Hispanic males experienced the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in Ohio during this period.

After a decrease in 2018, the state observed a consistent rise in overdose deaths throughout 2019, with an initial dip in the first quarter of 2020 followed by a sharp increase in the second quarter. May 2020, in particular, saw the highest monthly total of unintentional drug overdose deaths ever documented in Ohio, with 574 people losing their lives.

Opioid Crisis Ohio Facts

Accidental drug overdoses, primarily from opioids, are the leading cause of injury-related deaths in Ohio. Recognizing the gravity of this epidemic early on, Governor John Kasich initiated GCOAT (Governor’s Cabinet Opiate Action Team) in 2011, positioning Ohio ahead of many states in addressing this crisis. GCOAT unites various state agencies in a comprehensive effort to tackle opioid abuse and prevent overdose fatalities.

This concerted strategy promotes both informal and formal collaboration, allowing state entities and partners throughout Ohio to utilize their distinct capabilities, access to data, and policy influence effectively. Ohio’s holistic approach includes efforts at both state and local levels, engaging law enforcement, public health officials, addiction and treatment specialists, healthcare professionals, educators, and the general population. 

What Solutions Are There for The Ohio Opioid Crisis?

Under the guidance of GCOAT, Ohio has been a pioneer in the fight against prescription drug abuse, investing over $1 billion annually for more than a decade. The strategies employed are diverse and targeted:

  • Enhancing drug interdiction efforts: The State Highway Patrol has amplified its efforts to disrupt the flow of drugs across state lines, achieving unprecedented levels of drug seizures for five years running.
  • Promoting responsible prescribing: Ohio has issued prescribing guidelines for emergency departments and healthcare providers, aiming to minimize the misuse of opioids, limit excess medications, and encourage alternatives to opioid therapies.
  • Boosting prescription monitoring: The state’s prescription drug monitoring system usage surged, with more than 88 million reports pulled in 2017 alone. This uptick has led to a notable reduction in opioid prescriptions and a decline in doctor shopping practices.
  • Initiating regulatory reforms for wholesalers: Ohio has imposed stringent guidelines for drug wholesalers to better monitor and report suspicious activities in the drug supply chain to authorities.
  • Cracking down on pill mills: A key focus has been the aggressive closure of pill mills, significantly diminishing the street availability of prescription opioids and addressing a major source of drug diversion.
  • Supporting recovery in the workforce: The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation has introduced several initiatives to lower opioid dependence among injured workers. These include the establishment of a medication policy panel, creation of a drug formulary, and the promotion of prescribing best practices.

Ohio’s broad-based strategy seeks to alleviate the impact of prescription drug abuse and addiction, ensuring the health and safety of its communities while paving the way for a future where public health is protected and addiction rates are significantly lowered.

Get Opioid Addiction Treatment at Ohio Recovery Centers

Opioid addictions can be aggravating and disruptive, but they are also treatable with evidence-based interventions. At Ohio Recovery Centers, we specialize in the outpatient treatment of opioid addictions at our rehab in Cincinnati, OH.

Outpatient treatment is not only affordable and covered by most health insurance policies, but it also enables you to fulfill your everyday obligations without compromising your recovery.

Due to the unique presentation of all opioid addictions, expect to access a personalized blend of treatments that may include medications, psychotherapy, counseling, and a variety of holistic therapies. All of our treatment programs also include a comprehensive aftercare component to minimize the chance of relapse derailing your recovery.

Call 877-679-2132 today and start addressing opioid addiction right away.

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn