OHIO — The state of Ohio saw a 26.6% increase in drug overdose deaths in the 12-month period ending April 2021 compared to the 12-month period ending April 2020, the National Center for Health Statistics reported.
The updated statistics come as federal officials said Wednesday that the number of drug overdose deaths climbed above 100,000 for the first time in the U.S. in a 12-month period.
During the period of May 2020 to April 2021, Ohio had an estimated 5,585 overdose deaths. A year prior, there were 4,410 overdose deaths reported, according to the NCHS.
Drug overdose deaths previously peaked from July 2016 to June 2017 in Ohio. The NCHS estimated there were 5,293 overdose deaths in Ohio from July 2016 through June 2017. After a drop in drug overdose deaths late in 2017 and in 2018, figures began to rise again in 2020.
Nationally, there was a 28.5 rise in drug overdose deaths from May 2020 to April 2021 compared to the prior year, the NCHS reported.
While county-level data has not been released for April 2021, data from prior months show a rise in drug overdose deaths. Franklin County, the state’s most populous county, had the most estimated overdose deaths with 852 during the period of April 2020 to March 2021, the National Center for Health Statistics reported.
While most counties in Ohio saw increases in drug overdose deaths, Hamilton County has not seen an increase. The county had a peak of 392 overdose deaths in the 12-month period ending April 2020. In the one-year period ending March 2021, there were an estimated 376 overdose deaths, the NCHS reported.
"Today, new data reveal that our nation has reached a tragic milestone: more than 100,000 lives were lost to the overdose epidemic from April of last year to April of this year," President Joe Biden said in a statement. "As we continue to make strides to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot overlook this epidemic of loss, which has touched families and communities across the country."
Experts believe that the prevalence of fentanyl is driving the surge in overdose deaths, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left many Americans isolated and unable to find support. Synthetic opioids such as fentanyl accounted for nearly two-thirds of those deaths.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, fentanyl was involved in 76% of overdose deaths in 2019, often in combination with other drugs.
Spectrum News 1 reporter Justin Tasolides contributed to this report.