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Overdose deaths rise once again in Trumbull County

Amphetamines creep into opioid crisis

WARREN — Drug overdose rates that went down in 2018 are back on the rise in 2019, and Trumbull County is on track to match record accidental overdose deaths in 2017, according to the executive director of the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board.

“The tox screens show that fentanyl is in everything, and overdose death rates across the state are on the rise from cocaine and methamphetamine that contains fentanyl,” said April Caraway, executive director. “We are still in the midst of the opiate crisis, and now we are in an amphetamine crisis, too.”

Accidental drug overdose deaths tracked by the Trumbull County Coroner’s Office was at 16 from January through April 23, 2018. That number was down by more than half from the 35 recorded from January through April 30, 2017.

This year, there have been 36 through April 15, numbers from the coroner’s office show. The number puts the county on track to reach the record high of 135 recorded in 2017, eliminating the 44 percent decrease the county experienced by the end of 2018.

Of the 36 deaths so far this year, all but two of the victims were white and all but nine were men, according to statistics from the coroner’s office.

The majority of people who suffered drug overdoses — whether fatal or not — and were treated by medical personnel were aged 20 to 40, according to data compiled by the mental health and recovery board and the Trumbull County Combined Health District. That data shows 281 overdose encounters were seen at local hospitals, with a high of 77 in April and a low of 39 in January. The Warren 44483, 44484 and 44485 ZIP codes saw the most overdoses, followed by the 44446 ZIP code in Niles and the 44420 ZIP code in Girard.

Toxicology screenings from the deceased, which take several weeks to process, show a fentanyl-cocaine mixture killed 33 percent of the victims, and in 22 percent of cases, the person had only fentanyl in his or her system. Mixtures of fentanyl and heroin accounted for 8 percent of the deaths, and 8 percent of the people had only amphetamines in their systems.

Toxicology screenings of the deceased show fentanyl also was mixed with both cocaine and heroin, with alcohol, with cocaine and alcohol, and with alcohol and benzodiazepines.

Caraway said amphetamines are becoming much more prevalent.

“We are also seeing an increase in prescribing across the state for amphetamines — like Adderall, Dexedrine and Ritalin. If someone truly has ADHD, these can be helpful, but too many high school and college-aged students are taking them thinking that they provide a ‘competitive edge’ because they can study longer and be more focused,” Caraway said. “What is happening in reality is that these are highly addictive stimulants that lead to a transition to stronger, illegal drugs, like cocaine, crack and meth. Just like with alcohol and other drugs, the younger a person is when they start using, the higher the likelihood that they will develop an addiction.”

Ohio has a prescription monitoring program that was developed in response to the overprescribing of opioid medications.

Caraway said the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services intends to regulate these types of prescriptions, too, “similar to what was done with opiate prescriptions to reduce prescribing.” However, the agency has not yet issued written guidelines.

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