CINCINNATI — In recent years, state officials in Ohio have cracked down on how doctors prescribe opioids and other addictive substances, along with how they report prescription drug abuse. A subsequent drop in the number of overdose deaths have addiction counselors cautiously optimistic that the new measures could be helping.
Between 2016 and 2017, at least 800 Ohioans died from overdoses involving commonly-prescribed opioids. In 2018, that number dropped dramatically, to the lowest it's been since 2010.
"It's one thing to have a surgery and have a prescription for 30 days," said Amy Parker, who has worked to overcome her addiction and now works as a community outreach manager for Brightview. "That can create an addiction quickly. It's different to have a surgery and have a prescription for three to five days. That's able to be managed a lot easier."
Parker had seven knee surgeries at the age of 14, and said the pain medication she was prescribed after those surgeries became an addiction.
"With each surgery, I was prescribed pain medicine and I was prescribed a month at a time for several months," she said. She added that, by the end of her active addiction, she'd escalated to buying black tar heroin.
Parker overdosed in 2012, but survived and set herself on the path to overcoming the addiction that had controlled her for years. Now, she works at Brightview, helping others to learn to control and overcome their addictions.
In 2018, the number of people who died from a prescription overdose in Hamilton County dropped more than 50 percent. Parker believes this could be a direct result of the state-wide crackdown on opioid prescriptions by doctors. Unfortunately, Parker said, it's not a complete fix, since prescription abusers have found other ways to feed their habit.
"Nowadays it's much, much easier to find heroine or fentanyl on the street than it is to get a prescription of pain medication from a provider," said Parker. But she said she's cautiously optimistic, because as doctors restrict their prescriptions, she believes it will help prevent future addictions from ever forming in the first place.