OSU Research Offers Insight into Opioid Crisis

One effective way to combat Ohio’s growing opioid crisis is to prioritize treatment in underserved areas across the state because those are among the areas struggling most with opioid abuse, says an analyst with the C. William Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy at The Ohio State University.

According to a report released by researchers with the Swank program, medication-assisted treatment is the most clinically effective and cost-efficient method for reducing opioid addiction, abuse and overdose death.

But in Ohio, which now leads the nation in opioid-related overdose deaths with a record 4,050 drug overdose deaths reported in 2016, a 33 percent increase from 2015, according to the Ohio Department of Health, some 60 percent of those abusing or dependent on opioids lack access to such treatment, Partridge said.

The report says medication-assisted treatment has shown to be a clinically effective and cost-efficient approach to treating opioid addiction, with three common medications used in the treatment of opioid addition: methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone.

Yet, Ohio has only 26 certified methadone treatment centers and 377 doctors who are certified to prescribe buprenorphine.

Opioid drugs, including prescription painkillers and heroin, killed more than 33,000 people nationwide in 2015, more than any year on record, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were 3,050 overdose deaths in Ohio in 2015, with 58.2 percent of the deaths blamed on the use of fentanyl and its derivatives, an opioid 50 times stronger than heroin, officials said.

The annual cost of opiate abuse, addiction and overdoses to Ohio is estimated to be between $6.6 billion to $8.8 billion, the report said. The total social and economic costs of the opioid crisis are similar to what the state spends on K-12 education.

Another key finding from the report is that there is a robust and direct correlation between unemployment rates and opiate overdoses and deaths. Individuals living in high-employment regions of the state tend to also have high levels of opioid abuse.