OHIO — Tuesday marked the first ever National Fentanyl Awareness Day, a day dedicated to drawing attention to the urgent issue of the increase of fentanyl-related overdoses.
Ohio has had the among the highest number of drug overdose deaths in recent years. In 2019, the Buckeye State ranked No. 3 for overdoses with 4,251 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It only got worse in 2020 when Ohio ranked No. 4 in the nation, but with more deaths: 5,204.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, 76% of overdose deaths in the state in 2019 involved fentanyl.
Last week, two Ohio State University students died of a suspected accidental overdose that was likely because of fentanyl-laced pills. The university sent out a letter to students warning them about possible fake Adderall pills.
Dr. Ryan Marino with University Hospitals dedicated a lot of his work to this issue.
Opioid overdoses have always been a problem, but fentanyl is one of the most powerful ones, and when it falls into the wrong hands, it has the strength to be deadly.
“Fentanyl is now showing up in things that people think are Xanax pills being sold on the street," Marino said. "It’s showing up in cocaine and methamphetamine, and so there’s really just a lot of issues where fentanyl has kind of replaced everything.”
The medical field routinely uses fentanyl to treat pain, similar to morphine, but it's much more potent. The issue is the way it’s being used outside of the medical field.
“The problem we’re seeing on the street is when fentanyl shows up (is) people don’t know what dose they’re getting, and because it’s so potent, little errors like 1% chance in what’s being sold as maybe heroin or a pill, could be a double dose,” Marino said.
The goal of bringing attention to the fentanyl epidemic on National Fentanyl Awareness Day is that it could prevent future overdoses. Marino believes opening the conversation about this topic will be beneficial to lowering the risk of this problem.
“The point of this day was to just really raise awareness and see what we could do, get people more aware and try to educate people and protect them," he said.