You are here: Home > The Epidemic

The Epidemic

Ohio deathsThe number of deaths directly related to prescription drug abuse increased nearly 500% from 1999 to 2013.  These accidental deaths now outnumber traffic crash fatalities in both Ohio and across the nation.  Prescription pain relievers continue to be the key factor behind this epidemic and are responsible for more overdose fatalities statewide than heroin and cocaine combined. 

  • 2010: enough prescription opioids were prescribed to medicate every American adult around the clock for a month.
  • 2011: nearly five Ohioans died each day due to a drug overdose, an average of one person every five hours.
  • 2013: Cuyahoga County lost 340 residents to opioids.

Fatal and non-fatal drug poisonings cost Ohioans $3.6 billion annually, or $303 per resident.

Contributing factors that led to this epidemic include:

  • Changes made to clinical pain management guidelines during the late 1990s
  • Improper storage and disposal of unused medication
  • Marketing medications directly to consumers
  • Over-prescribing
  • Substance abuse and underlying mental health issues
  • Widespread diversion of medications (doctor shopping, illegal online “pharmacies,” and the establishment and recent closure of pill mills)

Steps taken to reduce the use of pain pills may have inadvertently produced a dramatic rise in heroin use.

  Ohio Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force
Progress & Recommendations 
  Ohio Department of Health
Ohio Drug Overdose Data: General Findings 
  Ohio Department of Health
Ohio's Opioid Epidemic: An Overview of the Problem