Drug overdose deaths in the Buckeye State fell in 2018, the Ohio Department of Health says in an annual report released late last month. But the number of deaths is still very high.
Ohio saw about 1,100 fewer deaths due to drugs that year than it did in 2017, but still averaged about 72 deaths a week. That is down from the roughly 92 deaths a week the state saw in 2017, and the lowest level seen since 2015.
The state saw about 30 overdoses per 100,000 people in 2018.
The 3,764 overdose fatalities in the state in 2018 were mostly due to the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, which was involved in about 73 percent of all overdose deaths. Overdoses due to that synthetic began spiking sharply in 2014 and have continued to be a major issue. The overall number of fentanyl deaths dropped last year in Ohio, however.
Overdoses due to drugs like methamphetamines and cocaine rose in 2018, according to the state, though many of those overdoses also involved fentanyl.
Black males had the highest overdose death rates in both 2018 and 2017, overtaking white males — though 2017 year was the first time in a decade that was true. Among black males, those ages 55 to 64 were the most likely to die from an overdose. For all other groups, the most overdose deaths occurred among people between the ages of 35 to 44. Black females had the lowest overdose death rates.
Over the past five years, Southwest Ohio has been a focal point for the opioid crisis. Montgomery County had the highest per capita overdose death rate in the state between 2013 and 2018 with 61 deaths per 100,000 people, and five other southwestern Ohio counties were also among the top 10. Brown County was second with an overdose death rate of roughly 55 per 100,000 people. Butler County was the third-highest, with a rate of 53 per 100,000.
Hamilton County's rate was above the state's — 40.5 deaths per 100,000 people over the five-year period — but lower than some surrounding counties. Officials estimate overdose deaths here declined by 20 percent in 2018.