Drug overdoses killed 4,329 Ohioans in 2016, the second-highest death rate in the nation. That’s up 24 percent over the 3,310 drug deaths the previous year, according to a report released Thursday by the federal government, reports the Columbus Dispatch. Despite increased government spending, Ohio’s rate of drug-overdose deaths, 39.1 per 100,000 people, trailed only West Virginia’s 52 per 100,000 population. The powerful and deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl is largely to blame for the exploding number of deaths, according the National Centers for Health Statistics. “We’ve got a big problem in Ohio,” said Dublin Police Chief Heinz von Eckartsberg. First responders in Dublin had to use two doses of the drug antidote naloxone to revive a 20-year-old man earlier this week and 11 doses to revive another man last month, suggesting they’d taken fentanyl. Statewide, emergency responders have administered more than 43,000 doses of naloxone this year, up from 31,800 in all of 2016.
Disturbing as the numbers for 2016 are, signs point to an even-higher Ohio death toll in 2017. Data for Franklin County overdose deaths through the first nine months of 2017 — 383 — exceed the total for all of 2016, when drugs killed 353, according to Coroner Anahi Ortiz. Nationally, there were 63,632 drug deaths in 2016, nearly 20 per 100,000 people. That was 21 percent higher than the rate in 2015, when 52,404 died, the federal report found. Drug-overdose death rates increased between 2015 and 2016 among all age groups, with the largest jump — 29 percent — among those ages 25-34. After West Virginia and Ohio with the highest drug-overdose death rates in 2016 were New Hampshire (39 per 100,000), the District of Columbia (38.8) and Pennsylvania (37.9). The five states with the lowest rates were Iowa (10.6), North Dakota (10.6), Texas (10.1), South Dakota (8.4) and Nebraska (6.4).