AMA official: Ohio leads in battling opiod epidemic
A newly published study shows that the opioid epidemic is occurring in waves, but Ohio may be a model in stemming the tide.
The study, recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found that Ohio had a 121 annual percent increase in people who died as a result of overdosing on synthetic opiates, such as fentanyl or carfentanil, between 1999 and 2016.
In 2016, the deaths of just more than 21 of every 100,000 Ohioans were from synthetic opiates. This equated to about two-thirds of the total opioid overdose death rate in Ohio, which was nearly 33 people per 100,000, according to the research. The study also identified three separate waves of the epidemic, beginning with prescription drugs, transitioning to heroin and moving to synthetic opiates.
The increase in opiate deaths rose again in 2017, largely due to synthetic opioids, but preliminary data shows the tide may be turning – with numbers for the first half of 2018 showing a decrease in overdose deaths.
That decline, amid use of a multifaceted approach to facing the epidemic, puts Ohio as a leader in the public health field, said Dr. Patrice Harris, president-elect of the American Medical Association.
Harris, who also chairs the AMA’s opioid task force, said Ohio’s use of multiple efforts to focus on treatment and access to treatment has helped spur the decrease, something other states are looking to replicate.
“The policies that are put forth today that are based on facets of this epidemic from 10 years ago, we won’t get to solutions,” Harris said.
She said the new study shows how Ohio’s approach, with increased access to naloxone, an opiate overdose reversal drug, harm reduction programs such as needle exchanges and focusing on treatment availability is working.
“When we are talking about delaying care in this epidemic, that could mean death,” Harris said.
She said looking at data like that from Ohio and the study can be used to guide policies moving forward and to analyze the effectiveness of the policies to adjust them as necessary.
“This study is highlighting that the solution that works in Ohio may not be the solution for California,” she said. “It really looks at the differences in the states and regions and how we’ll have to work together for solutions.”