Study: Opioid crisis not slowing down, deaths to increase 147 percent by 2025


Illustration by Skye McEowen 

Lydia Taylor

A study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that opioid-related deaths are going to increase by 147 percent by 2025.

Already in the midst of an epidemic, researchers state that the U.S. is likely to see 82,000 more opioid-related deaths, resulting in 700,000 total deaths between 2016 and 2025. And there are no signs that indicate this trend is changing.

“In the last decade, U.S. deaths due to opioid-related overdoses have tripled, increasing from approximately 17,500 in 2006 to 42,200 in 2016,” the study states. “In October 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency.”

Ohio has been at the center of the opioid crisis, ranking as one of the states with the highest rates of overdose deaths nationwide in recent years. Last year, Ohio ranked second for the most deaths, right behind West Virginia. The year before that, Ohio ranked first.

Ohio had a record 4,854 overdoses in 2017 — a 20 percent increase from the 4,060 recorded in 2016, according to the Associated Press.

In Northeast Ohio, Summit County declared an emergency over the epidemic a little over a year ago. In 2018, the county saw 98 overdose deaths — with some cases still pending — which is a stark decrease from the 271 total drug-related deaths in 2017, according to data from the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Portage County recorded 29 drug-related overdose deaths last year, which is another decrease from the 42 recorded in 2017, according to data from the Portage County Coroner’s Office.

While overprescribing is one of the factors driving the epidemic, the researchers didn’t attribute it as being the lead driver in the crisis.

The researchers believe that fentanyl is the main cause of drug-related deaths in the U.S. Even a very small dose of fentanyl can shut down the respiratory system and quickly lead to death, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The U.S. had 70,237 overdose deaths in 2017, with nearly 30,000 caused by fentanyl. Summit County had 84 fentanyl-related deaths in 2017 and Portage County had 14 fentanyl-related deaths.

In 2018, Portage County had under 20 fentanyl-related deaths.

The fentanyl-related deaths include analogs of fentanyl, often called “designer drugs,” such as furanfentanyl and cyclopropylfentanyl. Analog drugs are created in unauthorized labs that change the properties of illegal drugs to increase the drug’s potency, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens.

The U.S. is also seeing a spike in methamphetamine and other psychostimulant use; The U.S. News and World Report stated meth and psychostimulant use increased more than 5,000 percent in Ohio from 2010 to 2017. 

Lydia Taylor is the digital content editor. Contact her at [email protected].