On average 500 Montgomery County residents are taken to emergency rooms or the coroner’s office each year after a drug overdose, mostly from abuse of prescription pain killers, heroin or tranquilizes.
White men ages 45 to 54 are most at risk, according to a preliminary 2012 Poisoning Death Review Summary report obtained by the Dayton Daily News. The Wright State University report analyzed overdose data from the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office from Jan. 1 to November 19, 2012, with full-year data for 2010 and 2011.
The analysis found that of the 137 fatal poisoning cases autopsied during 2012, toxicology reports identified heroin in 77 of the cases, or 56 percent of the time.
The findings have led to a new public service campaign — posters — to raise awareness about the opiate problem targeting zip codes in Miamisburg, Huber Heights, East Dayton and others that were identified in the analysis as areas that historically have had high at-risk populations.
Because Montgomery County has an above-average unintentional drug overdose death rate, compared to many other counties in Ohio, Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County (PHDMC), in collaboration with Montgomery County’s Office of Family and Children First, was awarded a $60,000 federal injury prevention block grant in 2010 to study the problem.
“What we did not know was the extent of the problem,” said Russell Falck, associate director of the Center for Interventions, Treatment & Addictions Research in the Department of Community Health at the Boonshoft School of Medicine. “The cost is substantial in terms of human cost and in dollar and cents cost as well.”
Unintentional drug overdoses continued to be the leading cause of injury-related death in Ohio for the fifth year in a row, exceeding falls, suicides and traffic accidents, according to death data released Friday by the Ohio Departments of Health, Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services.
While the percent of increase in deaths tied to opioid drug overdoses in 2011 was cut in half from 2010 (from a 26 percent increase in 2010 to a 13 percent increase in 2011), the total number of unintentional poisoning deaths is still unacceptably high, state officials said.
The toll reached 1,765 deaths in 2011 the highest on record and about 14.3 percent more than the 1,544 deaths in 2010.
“The slowed increase provides a ray of hope but underscores just how much work still needs to be done to free Ohio from the prescription drug overdose epidemic and the resulting growth of heroin use and overdoses,” Dr. Ted Wymyslo, Director of the Ohio Department of Health said.
Unintentional fatal drug poisonings cost Ohioans $3.5 billion on average each year; while non-fatal, hospital-admitted drug poisonings cost an additional $31.9 million. These costs include medical, work loss and quality-of-life loss, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
The average cost for local emergency room overdose treatment is $4,000 to $5,000 each, Falck said.
While heroin related deaths have increased in Montgomery County, the analysis found those related to prescription opiates have steadily declined since 2010.
Andrea Hoff, director of community engagement for the Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Metal Health Services Board of Montgomery County, said that as the state has cracked down on some physicians prescribing pain medication — such as Vicodin, Percocet and Oxycontin — people have shifted from prescription medication to heroin.
“They’re all opiates and produce the same kind of high,” Hoff said. “People who you would not typically consider a drug addict gets hooked on pills and becomes an IV heroin user, because it’s cheaper.”
Public Health -Dayton & Montgomery County and Wright State plans to release the full report at a 10 a.m. press conference Tuesday at the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, 361 W. Third Street in Dayton.
Officials also are preparing to launch the public service campaign. The message of the campaign: the best way to reduce the chance of a drug overdose is to stop using drugs.
The campaign is the work of the Montgomery County Opiate Task Force and a partnership between Public Health – Dayton and Montgomery County, the Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Metal Health Services Board of Montgomery County, the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office and Wright State University.
The poster also includes advice for families who suspect a loved one may be using heroin, self-medicating, or over medicating.
“We know we have individuals who are addicts, but they are not ready to seek treatment,” Hoff said. “We don’t want them to overdose.”
For those in need of assistance, CrisisCare is a county-wide crisis and assessment service for people with mental health or drug and alcohol needs. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, CrisisCare services any adult or youth in Montgomery County who needs crisis services or evaluation for hospitalization. For more information, call 224-4646.
What: Drugs In Our Backyard, a free community event to discuss the opiate epidemic in Montgomery County
When: May 14, 5:45 p.m.
Where: Community Center (formerly Bomberger Center) 1306 E. Fifth Street, Dayton
Speakers include: Alcohol and other drug addiction experts; families affected by overdose; Dayton police; Montgomery County Opiate Task Force; Ohio Attorney General’s Office; Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services and the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine.