Almost 15,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose in 2005, with 500 from Ohio alone. As of 2015, those numbers have more than doubled to 33,000 deaths nationwide, 2,700 of which came from Ohio. Sheriff Phil Plummer of Montgomery County, the number one county in the nation in overdose deaths, estimates that 800 residents will die from opioid overdose this year. The death toll due to opioid overdose is so high that an extension of the county’s morgue had to be built in order to accommodate the number of bodies.
The opioid epidemic plaguing the United States and the state of Ohio has many roots, one of which being its location. Law enforcement officials say that Ohio is the true epicenter of the opioid epidemic as it is the perfect distribution hub for Mexican drug cartels. The two major interstates that cross through Ohio, also referred to as the heroin highways, allegedly allow the circulation of opioids throughout the country.
Although originally named the “heroin epidemic,” there has been a recent switch from heroin to the use of other opiates. According to CNN, the spike of overdose deaths in Ohio is largely due to fentanyl and carfentanil, which are more potent and deadly opioid analogues. Fentanyl can be 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin, while carfentanil is 5,000 times more potent than heroin.
In Montgomery County, many residents are actually purchasing one of these synthetic opioids when they think they are purchasing heroin. Recent research shows that more than 90% of the 281 unintentional overdose deaths in 24 Ohio counties last January and February involved fentanyl or fentanyl analogues. Carfentanil was detected in 21 of the deaths. The counties hit the hardest by the opioid epidemic, such as Montgomery, Lorain, and Vinton counties, sued drug distributors that failed to report suspicious orders of prescription opioids.
According to the lawsuit, enough opioid pills were dispensed to Vinton County that every single resident could have received more than 105 doses of opioids. These drug distributors were sued on account of failing to notice huge increases in opioid painkiller orders and thus allowing a surplus of painkillers to be diverted into the illegal market.
According to FOX News, many residents are just now beginning to understand the scope of the opioid crisis and law enforcement officials are trying to be proactive in educating residents about these dangerous substances.