CIRCLEVILLE — With all the focus on bigger issues in the world, many have not noticed that the opioid crisis has worsened in 2020 across Ohio.

More Ohioans died of an opioid overdose during a three-month period last year than at any time since the pandemic began, according to an analysis by a task force created by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.

“Opioid overdoses might have taken a backseat in our minds last year because of COVID-19, but make no mistake, Ohioans are dying at a devastating rate because of opioid overdoses,” Yost said, urging vigilance about how prescription drugs are stored and encouraging people to seek medical care in the event of an overdose — despite concerns about COVID-19.

The analysis by Yost’s Scientific Committee on Opioid Prevention and Education (SCOPE) found the death rate in Ohio from opioid overdose at 11.01 per 100,000 population in the second quarter of 2020 — the highest rate in 10 years. The previous 10-year high was in the first quarter of 2017 at 10.87 opioid overdoses per 100,000 population.

“This is alarming data, and while COVID has rightly captured our attention, we cannot lose sight of the threat the opioid epidemic brings to all areas of Ohio,” Yost said.

Larry Schieber, Pickaway Addiction Action Coalition board member and immediate past president, shared Yost’s concerns, calling them “alarming”.

“With all of the attention on COVID, and possibly people spending more time isolated at home, overdose deaths continue to rise statewide to record levels,” he said.

“I have a chart comparing opiate usage data in Pickaway, Franklin and Ross Counties through October of last year from the Ohio Board of Pharmacy. I think it demonstrates that prescribing of opiates is continuing to decrease somewhat, but the usage rate continues to be significantly greater in Pickaway and Ross counties as compared to Franklin, which partially explains the higher death rate in those counties. Prescriptions of opiates to Pickaway County residents run about 30 percent higher as compared to Franklin County.”

As to that chart, There were approximately 400,000 opioid doses per 100,000 residents in Pickaway County in October 2020; down from about 650,000 doses per 100,000 residents in February 2015.

Schieber, a pharmacist at Scheiber Pharmacy in Circleville, said everyone needs to remain vigilant of the dangers when it comes to opiates.

“People that receive prescriptions for after surgeries may have them partially dispensed to avoid large amounts left over,” he said. “Unused prescriptions need to be properly disposed of in Dispill packets, mixed with coffee grounds and water, or dropped off at a disposal site. There are two disposal sites in Pickaway County: at OhioHeath Berger Hospital or the Sheriff’s office.”

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