Fentanyl and Related Drugs Like Carfentanil as well as Cocaine Drove Increase in Overdose Deaths
Ohio’s opioid epidemic continued to evolve in 2016 to stronger drugs, driving an increase in unintentional overdose deaths. The data shows a significant increase in overdose deaths involving the opioid fentanyl, the emergence of more powerful fentanyl-related drugs like carfentanil, and indications that cocaine was used with fentanyl and other opiates. The data also shows some promising progress – the fewest unintentional overdose deaths involving prescription opioids since 2009 (excluding deaths involving fentanyl and related drugs)
Illegally produced fentanyl can be hundreds of times stronger than heroin, and carfentanil and other related drugs can be stronger than fentanyl.
In 2016, unintentional drug overdoses caused the deaths of 4,050 Ohio residents, a 32.8 percent increase compared to 2015 when there were 3,050 overdose deaths.
Fentanyl and related drugs were involved in 58.2 percent (2,357) of all unintentional drug overdose deaths in 2016. By comparison, fentanyl was involved in 37.9 percent (1,155) in 2015, 19.9 percent (503) in 2014, 4.0 percent (84) in 2013, and 3.9 percent (75) in 2012 (see Figures 1 and 2). With the emergence of carfentanil in 2016, the fentanyl-related drug was involved in 340 overdose deaths, most of them during the second half of the year. For males and females respectively, the largest number of fentanyl and related drug overdose deaths were among the 25-34 age group. (see Figure 3). The increase in fentanyl and carfentanil overdose deaths in 2016 corresponded with an increase in drug seizure reports by law enforcement (see Figure 4).
The number of cocaine-related overdose deaths rose significantly from 685 in 2015 to 1,109 in 2016 — a 61.9 percent increase (see Table 1). Of cocaine-related overdose deaths in 2016, 80.2 percent also involved an opiate, and 55.8 percent involved fentanyl and related opiates in particular.
The number of overdose deaths involving heroin remained relatively flat with 1,444 overdose deaths in 2016 compared to 1,424 in 2015.