Highland County has seen a decrease in overdose deaths in 2020, Highland County Coroner Dr. Jeff Beery told The Times-Gazette.
According to Beery, since Jan. 1, his office has only seen a total of three confirmed overdose deaths and one probable.
In the last three months of 2019, Beery said his office saw six overdose deaths, some of which included a combination of methamphetamine and fentanyl. Since the beginning of 2020, Beery said his office has not seen an overdose death where the two illicit drugs were combined.
Since Ohio’s lockdown began, the coroner’s office has seen one confirmed and one probable overdose death to date, which Beery said is approximately a 50 percent decrease.
During the same period in 2019, from March 1 to mid-May, Beery said there were five overdose deaths in the county.
“There’s probably some seasonality to it, but if you compare anything to April 2017, it’s going to be way down. That was like the worst month we ever had.”
Beery was unable to speculate on why the number of overdose deaths has decreased, but according to a March 18 news release from the CDC, the number of overdose deaths in the U.S. decreased by a little over 4 percent from 2017 to 2018. Also from 2017 to 2018, the number of overdose deaths connected with prescription opioids decreased by 13.5 percent; overdose deaths connected with heroin decreased by 4.1 percent.
The CDC noted that though the number of prescription opioid-related overdose deaths remained stable in northeastern states, the number of deaths declined in 17 states in the midwestern, southern and western parts of the U.S.
“To sustain decreases and continue to prevent and respond to drug overdoses, specifically those involving synthetic opioids, it is critical to have a coordinated response,” said Dr. Debra Houry, the director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “Medical personnel, emergency departments, public health and public safety officials, substance abuse treatment providers, community-based organizations, and members of the community all play a role in addressing this complex and fast-moving epidemic.”
Beery added that since the lockdown began there have been a higher number of natural deaths in Highland County.
“It could be that people aren’t seeing their doctor, getting the surgery they need or getting their checkups. I think a lot of people were afraid to go out,” Beery said. “That may just be the tip of the iceberg. Things like cancers and things that haven’t been discovered yet that may become apparent later in the year or next year. So if someone had a malignant place on their skin and put off getting that taken care of, they might die of melanoma two years down the road, so you wouldn’t necessarily know right away.”
The New York Times recently reported that in March, hospital admissions for heart attacks decreased by 38 percent in nine major U.S. hospitals, despite cardiovascular disease being a leading cause of death in a typical year.
“It gives you an overall sense of how big things are,” Ohio State University Professor of Sociology Samuel Clark, who specializes in demography and epidemiology, told The New York Times. “For now, you can basically attribute the excess mortality to COVID-19. But you also grab all the things that are not COVID at all, but are probably created by the situation.”
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