One Third of Philadelphians Know Someone Killed by Opioid Abuse
Nearly 30% of Philadelphians know someone who has died as a result of opioid use and the issue isn't going away. What can be done?
On September 29, Dr. Anahi Ortiz, the coroner of Franklin County, Ohio, issued a public health alert on Facebook: “As of about 10am this morning we have had 10 people die of overdoses in about 26 hours. This is an unusually high number for our county in this period of time.” The coroner has not yet revealed the identities of the victims.
According to Dr. Ortiz, fentanyl is the cause of most of the overdoses that occurred over the weekend. In her announcement, she warned Franklin County residents who use cocaine and methamphetamine that the drugs could contain fentanyl, a potentially lethal synthetic opioid. She also advised Franklin County residents to carry naloxone, a medication that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses, along with fentanyl testing strips.
With a population of more than 1,300,000 people, Franklin County is the largest county in Ohio. Its county seat and largest city is Columbus. This is not the first time that drug overdoses have claimed lives in Franklin County in quick succession. In July, nine people in Columbus died from overdoses in just two days. The following month, another six people died from overdoses in less than 24 hours across several Columbus suburbs.
In response to this crisis, the Franklin County government launched an Opiate Action Plan earlier this year to prevent overdoses and increase access to addiction treatment. The Opiate Action Plan is a three-year campaign involving various public health initiatives, such as establishing addiction prevention programs for college students, providing support to opioid-addicted prisoners, and encouraging hospitals to treat pain without prescribing opioids.
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In the past few years, fentanyl and other synthetic opioids have contributed greatly to the incidence of fatal overdoses throughout the United States. In 2018, there were 68,000 fatal overdoses in America, two-thirds of which involved at least one opioid. While opioid overdoses involving prescription opioids have declined nationwide, overdoses involving fentanyl have become more prevalent.
The opioid epidemic has inflicted a heavy toll on Ohio. Tragically, Ohio suffered the second-highest rate of fatal overdoses among all fifty states in 2017, with a total of 4,293 lives lost. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, fentanyl was the most lethal substance for Ohioans in 2017. Unfortunately, Dr. Ortiz’s announcement indicates that two years later, nothing much has changed in the Buckeye State. While 22% fewer people died in Ohio from an overdose in 2018 than in 2017, the overdose death toll in Franklin County rose 10% last year. Hopefully, the county’s efforts to fight back against opioid abuse will start yielding results and help prevent last weekend’s tragedy from ever occurring again.
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