Ohio and the country are facing a drug addiction crisis characterized by the abuse of a powerful, deadly synthetic opioid, fentanyl. And the death toll continues to rise. It’s no wonder, then, that the task of combating opioid abuse continues to be daunting in Ohio.
The National Center for Health Statistics reported May 11 on 2021 national interim data showed a 23% annual increase in overdose deaths from synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl – from 57,834 in 2020 to 71,238 the last year.
In Cuyahoga County, overdose deaths increased more than 11% in the second quarter of 2021 from a year earlier, the county board of health reported. “This is a record time for the county, with at least 149 people confirmed to have died from a fentanyl/fentanyl analog or combination from March through June 2021,” the board added in its report for the second quarter 2021.
Worryingly, local overdose deaths among African Americans increased at a disproportionate rate in the second quarter of last year – “29.4% of all deaths in 2021, higher than all previous years: 25, 0% in 2020 and 27.8% in 2019,” the county board of health noted.
Fentanyl, originally developed as a painkiller for cancer patients, has become a widely abused deadly substance, sometimes sold disguised or pretending to be other drugs, such as Adderall, a prescription drug used to treat cancer. hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder. Adderall, or counterfeit variants sold on campus, have become popular among stressed students looking to improve “productivity and stay awake longer,” the University of Wisconsin psychology department has warned. The Journal of the American Medical Association reported in April that fentanyl “was implicated in over 77% of adolescent overdose deaths” in 2021, CNN reported, citing the study.
The deadly nature of fentanyl abuse and the frequent mixing of it by traffickers with less lethal drugs was highlighted earlier this month by the deaths of two Ohio State University students, one in Greater Clevelander, towards the end of the semester. Both deaths were attributed to accidental overdoses of drugs that may have been sold under the name Adderall and may have contained fentanyl.
At the same time, the sources of fentanyl are diversifying. Although China remains the main supplier to this country, the Drug Enforcement Administration reported in 2020 that, increasingly, fentanyl is being manufactured in Mexico and then smuggled into the United States.
What is there to do? Last December, the mother of a 20-year-old Ohioan who died of accidental ingestion of fentanyl while in college made some important suggestions in a cleveland.com op-ed:
* More education and a much more honest and open discussion about the dangers of fentanyl with young people, including on college campuses.
* Wider distribution of naloxone to counter opioid overdoses and fentanyl test strips to check for deadly fentanyl before using illicit drugs.
To this, we reiterate our editorial calls for greater transparency from the Council of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) of Cuyahoga County on the extent to which it funds substance abuse services based on evidence and the type of accountability measures it needs. .
A spokeswoman, when asked about accountability for this editorial, said the local ADAMHS board still demands vendor accountability.
The board’s 2021 annual report notes that it has “created a new compliance department” and hired a compliance officer, two new compliance officers and a third compliance officer to “continuously monitor suppliers after assessments to ensure continued compliance and to create corrective action plans if necessary. ”
These assurances lack details. Compliance with which metrics? How should responsibility be judged and measured?
Yes, local health authorities have saved lives and beaten the addiction curve in many ways, including providing naloxone and fentanyl test strips and diverting drug addicts from prison to recovery via openness from the Cuyahoga County Diversion Center a year ago. . But as the threat of fentanyl grows and expands, more needs to be done to focus resources on treatment programs for which there is evidence that they work. The local ADAMHS Board, on the front line, needs to do more to inform the public about how it ensures only evidence-based programs are funded, as well as more details about its measures and results.
Opioid abuse is a scourge that kills lives and breaks hearts. Cutting off supply, through law enforcement, is a key strategy. But, at the state and local levels, better education for young people and stronger, evidence-based approaches to prevention and treatment are also needed. For the good of all, this is a fight that must be fought and won – in Greater Cleveland, Ohio and nationally.
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