Ohio Mystery: Why Is State a Heroin Epicenter?

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Ohio, Texas and California are similar in several important respects, but the Buckeye State differs in one tragic way: Each is a large and urban state and, before the heroin epidemic in 2010, the amount of opioids prescribed per person was relatively close to the national average. Unlike the other two states, the rate of heroin deaths in Ohio spiked between 2010 and 2015, becoming the nation’s highest. The differences between the big states could hardly be more stark, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

In Ohio in 2015, more than 12 people per 100,000 died of heroin overdoses. For Texas and California — both states on the border with Mexico, where much of the heroin supply is said to originate — that figure was less than two. Seattle-based LiveStories issued a new report, Heroin Highways: Fueling the Opioid Epidemic, crunching federal data for cities and other public entities. It asks — but does not answer — why illicit drug sales took such a strong hold in Ohio. “The question of ‘Why Ohio?’ could well be posed to illegal drug traffickers,” the report says. “What did they see in Ohio that made it seem like a lucrative investment for market expansion?” One reason might be the state’s location, said Cheri Walter of the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities. “We are part of the superhighway,” she said. “A whole lot of drugs pass through going north and south and east and west.” The LiveStories report points out that Ohio cities are some of the nearest urban centers to residents of West Virginia and Kentucky, where far more opioids were being prescribed per capita in 2008, at the peak of over-prescription, than the national average.

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