The Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health (OAIPH) found in a research study that the number of overdose deaths related to cocaine and psychostimulant drugs, such as methamphetamines and amphetamines, has increased more than 5,000 percent over the past eight years.
OAIPH is an alliance formed between Ohio University’s College of Health Sciences and Professions, OHIO’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, and the University of Toledo’s College of Health and Human Services to find the impact of .
Orman Hall, author of the analysis paper, said in an email that the mortality data was forwarded to the OAIPH from the county coroner’s office at the Ohio Department of Health through a public records request from The Plain Dealer.
“In Ohio, mortality data is considered sensitive but not protected health information,” Hall, also an executive-in-residence in the College of Health Sciences and Professions, said in an email.
Hall said in an email the idea for the research came to him after an exploratory analysis of the 2017 overdose death data, which indicated a significant increase in cocaine and psychostimulant deaths. That led to a discussion with Rick Hodges, a director for OAIPH; Regina Schwartz, senior director of Communications and Marketing; and the College of Health Sciences and Professions communications staff.
Fentanyl related deaths have increased from 77 deaths in 2010 to 2,357 in 2016, according to the study. Fentanyl overdose accounted for 96,118 years of life lost in 2016, and was also involved in 67 percent of fatal opioid poisonings.
Psychostimulants were found in nine unintentional overdose deaths in 2010. That number rose to 509 in 2017, which is a staggering increase of 5,556 percent, according to the OAIPH research.
Seventy-one percent of overdose deaths in 2017 with psychostimulants occurred with fentanyl and 79 percent occurred with some form of opioid. The 2017 data also showed that 12 percent of all unintentional overdose deaths included the use of a psychostimulant.
Wayne County had the highest percentage of overdose deaths from 2010-2017 that included a psychostimulant, while Franklin County had the highest percentage of overdose deaths from 2010-2017 that included cocaine with 36.1 percent.
The research’s preliminary monograph was produced over a two week period. Hall said in an email that a more extensive journal article will be prepared by a team of OU researchers for journal publication.
After the research was completed, the conclusion was derived through a quantitative analysis of the dataset and preliminary conversations with Dennis Lowe, major crimes unit commander in Athens, and John Eadie, National Emerging Threat researcher.
In Hall’s research, it was found that cocaine (including crack) and psychostimulants have similar effects as users experience increased alertness as well as intense feelings of exhilaration and euphoria. Hall said he is concerned because of the recent surge in stimulant-related fatalities in Ohio, despite addiction to stimulus being a common sight.
Molly Brown, a junior studying music therapy, is aware of the epidemic that has been affecting people and some members of her family in rural areas. She said she thinks mental illness is one of the reasons for increased consumption and prevalence of drugs, and that people look toward drugs to calm nerves and anxiety.
“They don’t see the consequences of what can happen after you get addicted; the death rate,” Brown said. “They don’t see that. They just see the release from the mental anxiety and the depression that they’re feeling.”
Clarification: A previous version of this report said the paper was focused on opioid-related deaths. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.