Rate of OD deaths slows

LISBON — The number of drug overdose deaths in Columbiana County declined by 30 percent last year after reaching a record high in 2017.

Approximately 29 accidental deaths were attributed to drug overdoses in 2018, according to the county coroner’s annual report, down from 41 recorded the year before.

Overdose deaths in the county had been steadily rising since 2009, reaching 26 in 2013 before dropping to the next year. The number rose to 27 in 2015 and 37 in 2016 before reaching 41 in 2017, as the county’s opioid crisis worsened.

A major reason undoubtedly for the decline was government efforts that began in 2017 to get the opioid antidote Narcan into the hands of police officers and other first responders, family members and friends of drug addicts, and the addicts themselves.

The East Liverpool area continues to lead the county in overdose deaths. Nine occurred in the East Liverpool zip code in 2018, followed by the Lisbon and East Palestine areas, with three accidental overdose deaths each. Columbiana, Leetonia, Salem, Salineville and Wellsville each had two.

Of the 29 overdose deaths, 22 were males and seven were females. Their ages ranged from 20 years old to 69.

The most common drugs found in their system, in order of frequency, were fentanyl, cocaine, morphine, heroin, benzodiazepines, methamphetatimes, gabapentin and tramadol. Almost all overdose deaths involve a deadly combination of these drugs.

Missing from the list is THC (the mind-altering ingredient in marijuana) and hydrocondone, which were on the list of prominent drugs in 2017.

The coroner’s office investigated 118 of the 1,030 deaths that occurred in the county last year. Of the 118 that were investigated, 51 were found to be due to natural causes, 45 from accidents and 18 from suicides. The cause of two deaths was undetermined.

Of the 45 accidental deaths, 29 were from drug overdoses. Another six were from vehicle crashes and two each from falls, being struck by a train and asphyxia,

Two homicides occurred in the county last year, down from three in 2017. The highest number of homicides on record in the county was 10 in 1979.

The number of suicides increased to 18 last year, up from 14 in 2017, with the record being 23 set in 2014. Twelve of the suicides were due to self-inflicted gunshots and five were from hanging. One was from self-inflicted blunt force trauma. Sixteen of the 18 suicides were men.