Fentanyl was the driving factor behind an 8% increase in drug overdose deaths in Franklin County.
The increase comparing the deaths in the first three months of 2019 to the first quarter of 2018 was released in a preliminary report by the Franklin County Coroner’s office on Thursday.
Opiate-related deaths accounted for 90% of the 120 drug overdose deaths in the first quarter of 2019 in Franklin County.
“It really is not a big surprise,” Dr. Anahi Ortiz, Franklin County Coroner, said of the increase. There was an increase in overdose deaths in the first quarter of 2018, which evened out as the year progressed, she said. “We are not sure how the rest of this year will go.”
>> Read more: Coroner again warns of spike in fatal overdoses in Franklin County
Overdose deaths involving fentanyl account for 76% of the total deaths, an 8.5% increase from the deaths in the first quarter of 2018.
“In general, we are starting to see fentanyl being laced with other drugs like marijuana and cocaine,” said Shawn Holt, president and CEO of Maryhaven, an addiction recovery facility serving central Ohio with its main campus on the South Side.
Holt said that more patients are using multiple drugs, another reason for the spike in overdose deaths.
The biggest change, however, is the increase in the number of deaths among blacks.
Although the number of deaths among whites account for 66% of deaths, a decrease from 77% in 2018, the number of deaths among blacks increased by 8%.
This is probably a result of fentanyl-laced drugs and limited access to immediate care, Holt said.
>> Read more: Overdose deaths from cocaine and meth climbed last year, even as heroin kept its grip on Franklin County
Overdose deaths continue to be more prevalent among males, who represent 72% of fatalities.
Holt said the stigma surrounding substance use disorder is another obstacle for patients to reach out for help.
The more conversations and education we have, the better we can address issues relating to drug overdoses, he added.