Deadly accidental drug overdoses set record in 2011

COLUMBUS - The rate in unintentional opoid drug overdoses slowed by half in 2011 compared to 2010, according to the Ohio Departments of Health and Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services.

The percent of increase in deaths tied to opioid drug overdoses in 2011 was cut by 50 percent compared to 2010 -- from a 26 percent increase in 2010 to a 13 percent increase in 2011. But the number of actual deaths increased from 1,544 to 1,765. The ODADAS insists the number is "unacceptably high."

That's the highest number for deaths on record. Meaning, nearly five Ohioans died every day from unintentional drug overdose, or one every 5 hours. There has been a 440 percent increase in statewide drug overdose deaths since 1999, from 327 to 1,765.

"The slowed increase provides a ray of hope but underscores just how much work still needs to be done to free Ohio from the prescription drug overdose epidemic and the resulting growth of heroin use and overdoses," said Dr. Ted Wymyslo, the state's health chief, in a release. "Prescription drug abuse is a complex substance abuse issue and we are attacking on several different fronts."

State officials credit the percentage decrease in accidental opoid drug overdoses to closure of so-called "pill mills" in southern Ohio and the expansion of addiction treatment options, including accessibility of medication-assisted treatment.

"We are encouraged that the rate of increase is going down but the number is still unacceptably high," said Orman Hall, Director of the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services. "As pill mills become increasingly scarce, we will see a shift to heroin and other non-prescription drugs so our interventions must be comprehensive and well-supported as we move forward."

Statewide, heroin accounted for nearly one in four of all drug overdoses in 2011, or 426 deaths. In Hamilton County, there were 189 accidental drug overdose deaths compared to 78 motor vehicle deaths in 2011, according to the county coroner's office.

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