TOLEDO, Ohio — Local recovery experts are addressing a record-breaking statewide surge in opioid-related deaths.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost says more Ohioans died of an opioid overdose in April, May and June of 2020 than at any other time since the drug epidemic began in the state.
Yost's office reported that there were about 16 opioid-related deaths per every 100,000 people during that time in Lucas County, with June expected to be the deadliest month with 40 deaths countywide.
In 2019, 265 people in Lucas County died to opioid overdoses. 2020 numbers are unfortunately expected to top that.
However, the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department says the current opioid-related death numbers are just estimates and will likely rise pending final toxicology results coming in months.
"Drugs are killing people and until individuals are going to accept the fact that there's a very high risk of that and view it that seriously, it's going to continue to happen—in fact, it's just going to continue to get worse," said Matt Bell, CEO of the Midwest Recovery Center.
Bell said the numbers are scary but not shocking. In 2020, he saw more people checking in for alcohol abuse than opioid addiction, which was more common before.
"I think a lot of people are just stressed out. A lot of anxiety and depression and fear of the unknown, and it's legal, it's available at every carry-out and gas station that you go to."
But that doesn't mean people aren't checking-in for opioid abuse at all. He describes how difficult recovery has been through the pandemic.
"Everything is shut down. It's really, really difficult to be that beacon that makes those healthy connections again, so when people are checking into treatment, they're realizing, 'Maybe this isn't for me, I could probably do this on my own.'"
He believes that could be the reason for the deadly surge.
"When you build that tolerance and then you don't use for a day or two and then you go back to using the same amount that you were using prior to stopping, that's when people are dying."
Although recovery looks different during the pandemic, Bell says it shouldn't be a reason to not get help.
"COVID is definitely a dangerous thing and it kills people, but so does drugs and alcohol. The chances of you using heroin and dying are significantly higher than you contracting COVID and dying."
If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction, contact the Midwest Recovery Center at midwestrecoverycenter.com/contact-midwest-recovery-center/ or call 833-654-1029.