Aug 17, 2022 - News

Fentanyl fuels local spike in drug overdose deaths

Franklin County overdose deaths, by year
Data: Franklin County Coroner's Office; Chart: Nicki Camberg/Axios

Franklin County drug overdose deaths spiked for a second year in a row, an increase largely driven by an influx of fentanyl.

Why it matters: U.S. overdose deaths have been rising for years and the pandemic exacerbated the problem, with lockdowns initially making it harder to access treatment.

  • Now secondary consequences, including depression and economic stressors, continue to have an impact.

The big picture: Over 100,000 people died from drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2021 ā€” more than any other year on record, per the National Center for Health Statistics.

Threat level: Ohio's drug overdose death rate was fourth highest in the nation in 2020, per the CDC's latest data.

Flashback: Earlier this year, health officials sounded the alarm about counterfeit drugs laced with fentanyl after two Ohio State students died from accidental overdoses.

Zoom in: Despite reported increases in adolescent deaths nationwide, locally, fatalities among younger people (ages 15-34) decreased from 2020 to 2021, per the coroner's report.

  • Fatalities in older age groups (45-64) increased, while deaths among people ages 35-44, the most impacted group, stayed consistent.

Of note: Victims were mostly male (70%) and white (65%), though deaths among African Americans increased 8% over five years.

  • Fentanyl, cocaine, amphetamine and alcohol use is increasing, but use of heroin and opioids other than fentanyl is decreasing.
  • Franklin County logged no heroin-related deaths for most of 2021, per the report.

What's happening: Ohio used federal pandemic relief funds to invest in addiction treatment programs and Franklin County promotes a variety of other addiction support services.

Separately, Ohio lawmakers enacted a "Relapse Reduction Act" this summer, which increased criminal penalties for drug trafficking near addiction services facilities and selling drugs to those undergoing treatment.

  • While law enforcement officials applauded the bill, civil liberties groups opposed the effort to tackle addiction as a criminal justice issue.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Columbus.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Columbus stories


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Columbus.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more