COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Columbus Public Health (CPH) says there is a slight decrease in overdoses and overdose deaths in Columbus and Franklin County so far this year. However, they are still pointing to a troubling trend.
That trend is the rising rate of overdoses in African American and older age group communities.
“What’s concerning is some of the trends that we are seeing in our populations that we previously had not seen such a large number of people using and dying from the disease of addiction,” Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts said. “You don’t typically see them or think of them using drugs. But I think that older population really suffered during the pandemic and loneliness really set in for them. And I think we can make the assumption that some of them have turned to more powerful ways to treat that loneliness.”
Franklin County Coroner Dr. Nathaniel Overmire says he sees the impact addiction has every day.
“I would think coming into this role, I would see a lot of overdose deaths and our teenagers or young folks in their 20s,” Dr. Overmire said.
He says that’s not the case: it’s 30 to 50-year-olds who are dying at the highest rate.
Dr. Overmire said in Franklin County they are is seeing the highest rates of overdoses in African American men aged 35 to 55
“This isn’t just your 18-year-old who got hooked on a drug at a young age and now can’t stop. These sometimes are working-class individuals who started using what they thought was recreationally and then got addicted to it and they can’t stop,” Dr. Robert said.
Opioids are always an issue, but some other drugs are causing problems too.
“We are seeing a slight rise in the amount of cocaine-related deaths and methamphetamine-related deaths, trending a little bit higher than we would expect,” Dr. Overmire said.
Oftentimes there’s more than one drug at play.
“Normally folks are having lethal levels of one, maybe two of these lists of substances. Now we’re seeing three, four, five of these lethal toxic levels of these substances,” Dr. Overmire said.
The coroner’s office is keeping a close eye on this and even bringing on a new team member to help understand the why behind an overdose.
“They’ll have an extra task of hopefully talking to families, speaking with friends about their loved one’s extent of their, their, their history, getting that psychosocial analysis,” Dr. Overmire said. “This continued crisis is so troubling and we have to remember that every overdose is someone who was living yesterday.”