Middletown opioid overdose deaths cut in half in 2020, but meth continues sharp rise

Middletown saw its opioid overdose deaths cut in half last year as total overdoses fell slightly, according to new data.

In the meantime, seizures of methamphetamine in the city have risen almost 11,000% since 2016, which officials say shows the changing habits of users.

Overdose deaths dropped from 48 in 2019 to 24 in 2020 as total overdoses decreases from 457 to 424 in the city, which was one of the region’s hardest hit by the overdose crisis of several years ago. That continued a drop in deaths from 77 in 2017 and 53 in 2018.

Middletown also decreased its use of the overdose-fighting Narcan, which cost about $7,400 and saved about $1,130 from 2019.

“It’s a whole lot better than when we were in 2018,” said Fire Chief Paul Lolli.

Lolli said the reduction of opioid overdose numbers “is due to a combination of things such as enforcement, the work of the Heroin Response Team, more education, and better treatment.”

Fire Capt. Brian Wright thinks the COVID-19 pandemic was a factor in some of the reduction.

“However, when people started getting out when the weather got warmer, the numbers went back up,” Wright said.

In May 2020, the number of fatal and non-fatal opioid overdoses spiked to 70 from 47 in April 2020. Those numbers gradually went down before seeing some slight increases, according to records.

While there has been a reduction in opioid overdoses in 2020, Middletown police narcotics officers recorded increases in other drugs such as methamphetamines, heroin and fentanyl, according to Middletown police Chief David Birk.

“Things go up and down and drug trends go in and out,” he said. “Meth is way up.”

Birk said police seized a record amount of meth in 2020, when seizures skyrocketed to 21,457 grams from just 196 grams in 2016.

The narcotics unit confiscated 5,464 grams of fentanyl/heroin in 2020, a change from 264 grams of fentanyl/heroin in 2016, Birk said.

Statewide numbers are up

Ohio opioid overdose deaths surged during the second quarter of 2020, making it the deadliest three-month period since the opioid epidemic began, according to a study by the Scientific Committee on Opioid Prevention and Education (SCOPE).

The task force, which was created by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, reported that the death rate from opioid overdoses increased to 11.01 per 100,000 people during the second quarter of 2020. Previously, the highest rate was 10.87 overdoses per 100,000 reported in the first quarter of 2017.

“Opioid overdoses might have taken a backseat in our minds last year because of COVID-19, but make no mistake: Ohioans are dying at a devastating rate because of opioid overdoses,” Yost said.

He noted that the analysis showed the spike began in April, shortly after Gov. Mike DeWine and former Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton issued a stay-at-home order in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Staff Writer Kristen Spicker contributed to this report.

About the Author