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Opioid Epidemic

 

In the United States, Ohio ranks as one of the top-five states with the highest rates of opioid-related overdose deaths. In 2016, there were 4,329 opioid-related overdose deaths in Ohio – more than double the national average at the time, and more than three times that amount in 2010. Between July 2016 and September 2017 – just over a year – Ohio experienced a nearly 3% increase in opioid overdoses. These numbers illustrate a startling reality of how rapidly this epidemic is worsening and highlight our urgent need for solutions.

We know that a major contributing factor in what led to the opioid epidemic began in the late 1990s, when healthcare providers were assured that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers and began prescribing them at greater rates. Widespread use led to widespread misuse before we, as a country, realized how highly-addictive these medications are. Yet, over-prescribing remains a driving factor of this epidemic. In 2012, there were more opioid prescriptions in the state of Ohio than there were people.

What’s more, prescription opioid dependency often leads to abuse of other – often cheaper – alternatives, such as heroin. Four out of five heroin addicts in Ohio and across the country started with prescription painkillers. Those who die as a result of a heroin overdose, along with those who die from an overdose of a prescription opioid or an illicitly-manufactured synthetic opioid, such as fentanyl, account for the deaths of more than 47 thousand Americans in 2017.

Since coming to Congress, I’ve made combating the growing opioid epidemic one of my top priorities. One life taken by this crisis is one too many, and I know firsthand that opioids have devastated the lives of Ohioans across the state. I will continue to work each day to find innovative solutions centered on research, increased access to addiction treatment and support, and enhanced communication among key parties such as prescribers, distributors, and law enforcement agencies.

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