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Opioids continue their deadly grip

As concerns continue to grow about the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing toll it takes every day, it’s easy to forget about other health issues that continue to have a devastating effect on our region.

A sad reminder came last week when Ohio Attorney General David Yost released a report that shows the state’s death rate from opioid overdoses of 11.01 per 100,000 population in the second quarter of 2020 was the highest rate in the last decade, and larger than the previous 10-year high of 10.87 overdoses per 100,000 residents that had been recorded in the first quarter of 2017.

Having the sad distinction of topping the list was Scioto County, in the southern part of the state, where the rate was 35.2 overdose deaths per 100,000 residents.

Counties in our region are continuing to be affected by opioids. Harrison County’s 12.61 deaths per 100,000 in the quarter topped our region, with Jefferson County coming in at 7.17 deaths, Columbiana County at 6.49 deaths and Belmont County at 4.26 deaths.

Those figures have grown since the early part of the epidemic, the second quarter of 2010, when Jefferson, Harrison and Columbiana counties reported zero deaths per 100,000 residents and Belmont County logged 1.42 deaths.

The release of the report compiled by the attorney general’s Scientific Committee on Opioid Prevention and Education came on the same day that Yost and a coalition of attorneys general from 48 states joined West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey and New Mexico’s Hector Balderas in seeking to push federal regulators to examine their recent progress in the fight against opioid abuse.

Specifically, the group, which includes Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, is looking for an update on how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is using the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Prevents Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act and what its future plans area. Among its provisions, the act calls for safer opioid packaging and methods of disposal and new guidelines for prescribing opioids.

Yost and Morrisey mever have wavered from their commitment to fight addiction and opioid abuse. Their vigilance is appreciated and, sadly, continues to be needed as the epidemic continues to exact an unacceptable toll in lives destroyed and lost, and imposes great demands on a health care system that is severely strained.

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