Addiction-related overdoses have reached epidemic levels in Ohio. In 2015, nearly 30 out of every 100,000 Ohio residents died due to drug overdoses. In 2016, 1,424 Ohio residents specifically died from heroin overdoses. If other opiates, such as prescription painkillers like morphine, Percocet, OxyContin, or Fentanyl are included in the numbers, the total number of 2016 Ohio deaths rises to 2,590. This is a shocking increase from the 87 heroin-related deaths in 2003.1

ohio-3050-drug-overdoses-in-2015-state-needleBy November, 2016, Ohio was calculated to have more heroin-related deaths than any other state in the nation. One in nine of all U.S. heroin deaths occurred in Ohio. It was also found that one in every 14 U.S. deaths related to synthetic opioids occurred in Ohio, the largest amount in the U.S.

The heroin epidemic impacts both the rural and urban areas of Ohio. In one six-day stretch in August 2016, 174 heroin overdoses occurred in Cincinnati alone. In many cases, the only culprit is heroin. In other situations, heroin has been mixed with other deadly drugs, such as Fentanyl (an opioid drug), carfentanil (an animal tranquilizer), household toxins, and other miscellaneous materials.

And the trouble doesn’t end there. A deeper look reveals even more problems related to the heroin and opioid epidemic in Ohio. For instance:

  • Ohio experienced more deaths caused by drug overdose than any other state outside of California in the year 2014.
  • Ohio’s foster care and child-protection system now houses nearly 14,000 children. Many of these children were removed from their homes because of family addiction.
  • Many emergency responders and police officers carry naloxone, a drug used to stop overdose deaths. Intervention plans have been put in place, but the problem is still growing.
  • Ohio drug and alcohol treatment centers are filled to capacity, and many people cannot find a treatment center with space for more patients. Under 14% of people who sought drug treatment were able to receive help in Ohio in 2014.2

Ohio’s Heroin Problem

Sources indicate that the Ohio heroin problem began when drug traffickers sought a place to import and export heroin. In the hopes of evading arrest and staying away from larger cities that have bigger and more advanced police forces, drug traffickers began to move operations to Ohio. The central location and rural areas offered an ideal hiding place for the transport of these dangerous drugs.

drug-overdose-every-2-hours-52-minutes-clocks-time-skulls-death-due-to-overdoses
At the same time that new laws took effect to limit the sale and distribution of prescription opiates, heroin became cheaper than the increasingly expensive prescription painkillers. A ready supply and cheaper prices continue to drive the Ohio heroin market.

Stopping the Ohio Heroin Epidemic

In 2013, the office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine launched a specialized heroin unit. This program was designed to educate, empower and assist communities in fighting the opiate epidemic.3 The program offers education on the dangers of prescription painkillers, which often serve as a gateway drug to heroin. Since that time, nearly one hundred Ohio doctors have lost their medical licenses in a crackdown designed to limit unlawful prescribing.

In the meantime, Ohio struggles to provide enough addiction treatment programs to handle this serious problem. While many people desire recovery, they also experience problems finding inpatient or outpatient rehab centers that are not overly full, or who are accepting new patients.

Ohio officials, like those in other states fighting heroin epidemics, realize that along with more treatment options, the key to ending the epidemic is prevention. There are many current prevention efforts, including the following:

  • The attorney general’s office in Ohio is investigating drug use prevention education in schools
  • The Ohio Department of Education has created a drug prevention program called “Start Talking!”
  • Law enforcement is cracking down on drug trafficking
  • In 2017, the Ohio Department of Public Safety and Office of Criminal Justice Services is providing more than $5.5 million in funding to support 40 local drug forces throughout the state
  • State officials are creating more methods for pain medication control and expanding access to overdose antidotes
  • The state is working to increase the number of opiate summits, conferences and educational opportunities in local communities4

Take a look at a historic timeline of the opioid epidemic.

What You Can Do to Help Stop the Epidemic

  • Communicate with your loved ones about the dangers of drug use
  • Listen to others and offer advice and options
  • Set a good example by staying drug free
  • Strengthen the bond between you and your loved ones
  • Be open to all conversations, especially about the need for help and treatment5

Finding Heroin Treatment Outside of Ohio

It may seem overwhelming to consider traveling a great distance to get help for addiction, but out-of-state addiction treatment has many benefits. Considering the incredible expense of opiate and opioid addiction, rehab treatment is truly a very cost-effective, life-saving investment no matter how far away.

The benefits of traveling for treatment include the following:

  • Escape Negative Influences: Treatment that is far from home is also far from places that trigger a desire to use. Dealers and acquaintances who use, doctors who may prescribe opioids, and stressors that seem difficult to escape without using are all potential relapse triggers.
  • Focus Completely on Healing: Treatment in an entirely new environment brings the focus fully to addiction recovery. With a reputable and licensed rehab program, individuals are able to gain confidence and new skills in getting sober and staying sober. By focusing completely on recovery and treatment, the individual is able to heal from past traumas, get back into stable physical health, and treat any co-occurring physical or mental health conditions.
  • Discover a Change of Scenery: It only makes sense to change locations when it seems that addiction and loss are all around. Reminders of loss and sadness are difficult to overcome when they happen continually. Engaging in and living in a more positive environment can lead to more hopeful thinking.
  • Stay in the Program Longer: When “home” is far away, it becomes more difficult to relapse or return to old behaviors. Leaving treatment requires more than just calling a cab to go home. Those extra steps between quitting and actually leaving treatment allow time for reflection, and possibly a renewed desire to “stick to it.”
  • Confidentiality: Entering treatment and running into people you or a loved one knew from everyday life can be awkward. Many people are more comfortable in the knowledge that they are not likely to run into or see old coworkers, friends of family or local community members. Addiction is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, but sometimes it feels safer to engage in the initial stages of healing in the privacy of a treatment center that is away from home.

Finding Help for Opioid Addiction

If you or a person you care about struggles with an opiate addiction, we can help. We offer a completely confidential, toll-free helpline that is staffed by our experienced addiction recovery professionals. We would be happy to answer any questions you have about out-of-state treatment or ways you can help yourself or a loved one. Call us today to learn more.


1 “Opioid Overdose.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Dec. 2016. Web. 17 July 2017.

2 Viviano, JoAnne. “Ohio at epicenter of heroin epidemic killing thousands.” The Columbus Dispatch. The Columbus Dispatch, 18 Sept. 2016. Web. 17 July 2017.

3Drug Abuse.”
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine – Drug Abuse. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 July 2017.

4 Governor’s Opiate Action Team. “Combating the Opiate Crisis in Ohio.” Combating the Opiate Crisis in Ohio. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 July 2017.

5Drug addiction Prevention.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 05 Dec. 2014. Web. 17 July 2017.