Northeast Ohio: The heart of America's opioid crisis - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Northeast Ohio: The heart of America's opioid crisis

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Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties are at the heart of Ohio's opioid problem. 

Ohio's average number of unintentional drug overdose deaths per 100,000 people is 22.2.

Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana county's rates are all higher than the state average, at 23.3, 31.0 and 23.7 respectively. 

In 2016, 111 people unintentionally overdosed on fentanyl or similar drugs in Trumbull County. Mahoning County lost 83.

According to the Center for Disease Control, Ohio had the second most opioid deaths in America in 2015 with 3,310 deaths, second only to California with 4,659 overdoses.

Ohio's total population in 2015 was 11.6 million. California's was close to 39 million. 

Ohio's Department of Health thinks that having similar numbers of opioid deaths to California, a state that has 27 million more people than Ohio, is an issue. 

In 2016, 4,050 Ohio residents died due to unintentional drug overdoses. That's a 32.8 percent increase compared to the 3,050 people that died the year prior. The average user is between the ages of 25-34.

The drug that causes the most unintentional overdoses is fentanyl, an opiate that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. 

Fentanyl was responsible for 58.2 percent of all unintentional overdose deaths in 2016, a sharp rise from the 3.9 percent of deaths the drug was responsible for back in 2012.

The drug works like any other opiate does-- it blocks out opioid receptors in the brain, releasing dopamine, which causes a sense of euphoria. Those opioid receptors, however, are found in the area of the brain that control's the body's breathing rate. Blocking out opioid receptors too much or too often can cause breathing to stop completely.

Unintentional overdoses from cocaine, another opiate, have also been on the rise. In 2015, 685 people died in Ohio due to a cocaine overdose. In 2016, that number increased to 1,109-- an 80.2 percent increase. 

Those who abuse opioids don't normally stick to only one strain of the drug. Out of all the opioid deaths in Ohio, 55.8 percent of those involved two or more opiates working in combination. 

According to the CDC, America's Northeast is home to the most opiate related overdoses compared to its population. 

These deaths are prominent in states like New York, West Virginia, Maine and Ohio. 

The southwest corner and northeast corner of Ohio have the highest rates of unintentional opioid death, according to the Ohio Department of Health. 

Montgomery County, which resides in the southwest corner, has the highest average at 42.5 unintentional opioid related deaths per 100,000 people. Trumbull County, in the northwest corner, isn't far behind at 34.2 deaths per 100,000 people. 

Ashland County, located in the top middle of Ohio, has the lowest rate at 5.8 deaths per 100,000. 

While the overdoses at the hand of fentanyl are on the rise, the overall deaths related to opioids in general (excluding fentanyl and the like) have been declining for five straight years. 

In 2015, only 667 people died due to a non-fentanyl opioid overdose. In 2016, that number decreased to 564-- the lowest number Ohio has seen since 2009.

The average person who unintentionally overdoses is only 23 years old. 

More information and visuals about Ohio's drug overdose data can be found in the PDF below. 

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