COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The number of overdose deaths in Greater Cincinnati continued to rise last year, according to a new report from the Ohio Department of Health.
Health officials pointed to the opioid fentanyl, a synthetic drug 50 times more powerful than heroin, as being behind an increasing number of unintentional overdose deaths. Fentanyl and related drugs were mentioned on more than 70 percent of death certificates in such cases, according to the report.
Overall, there were 4,854 overdose deaths in Ohio last year, the highest number going back to at least 2005, according to the report. The number of overdose deaths in local counties last year was also higher than in previous years:
Adams - 14
Brown - 31
Butler - 260
Clermont - 91
Clinton - 30
Hamilton - 444
Highland - 13
Warren - 81
However, the number of overdose deaths across the state did decline during the second half of the year, according to the report. There were 2,747 overdose deaths in the first half of the year, compared to 2,107 overdose deaths in the second half of the year.
Mark Hurst, the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services director, said that's a good sign.
"The good news is Ohio is seeing significant progress in reducing the number of prescription opioids available for abuse, and as a result, prescription opioid-related overdose deaths that don't also involve fentanyl are at their lowest level since 2009," he said in a news release. "This progress is significant because prescription opioid abuse is frequently a gateway to heroin and fentanyl use."