COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The rate of fentanyl-related overdose deaths has skyrocketed over the last 10 years, even doubling since 2019, and West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio now rank in the top 10 in fentanyl overdose fatalities.
According to a recent study from USAFacts, 70,601 people died from a fentanyl overdose in the United States in 2021. That number almost doubles 36,359 in 2019 and is 26 times more than a decade ago, when just 2,666 died of fentanyl overdoses nationwide. Of the total number of deaths in 2021, 87.8 percent of all opioid overdoes were from fentanyl, which was responsible for only 11.7 percent 10 years ago.
Fentanyl, which is up to fifty times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a pain reliever in 1998. But many overdose cases involve deaths from illegally made fentanyl, which the report says can be mixed with illicit drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA to increase the drugs’ effects.
Ohio, for its part, ranked eighth with 35.8 deaths per 100,000 people in 2021. It ranked in front of neighboring state Pennsylvania, which is 13th at 29.6 deaths per 100k and behind fourth-ranked Kentucky, which has 38.3 deaths per 100,000. This study did not include a state-by-state death count, but according to data from the Ohio Department of Health, more than 4,000 Ohioans died from fentanyl-related overdose deaths in 2020, a 32% jump in deaths from 2019.
More recently on Dec. 2, a grand jury indicted David Johnson III and two others on multiple felony charges for the death of David’s son, Dekari Johnson, who was just one year old and tested positive for fentanyl in an autopsy.
West Virginia leads all states by a wide margin – 66.6 people out of every 100,000 dies of a fentanyl overdose in West Virginia. Delaware follows at 41.6 deaths per 100k, and Tennessee is third with 40.6. Nearby states of Ohio, including Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee all rank in the top 13. Michigan, at 22.9 deaths per 100k, ranks 25th.
Nebraska, Hawaii, and South Dakota rounded out the lowest fentanyl death rates in the country with 4.6, 3.8 and 3.7 deaths per 100k respectively.