Over the past several years, the United States has been struggling with the opioid epidemic. People across the country are misusing and abusing opioids at an alarming rate, and different places are taking different approaches to combat the opioid crisis. Columbus, Ohio is no exception as the city continues to deal with the negative effects of the epidemic and tries to reduce its impact.
Opioid Use in Columbus
Opioids include prescription painkillers, heroin, and synthetic opioids like fentanyl. While many of these drugs can be prescribed by doctors for medical purposes, these medications can also be highly addictive and dangerous if misused. Without opioid addiction treatment, people who become dependent on these drugs will likely face serious consequences. Along with the misuse of prescription opioids in the area, Columbus has been deemed a heroin hot spot in the state by the Ohio Department of Health because the illicit drug is so readily available.1 In fact, in a 2017 survey of Columbus residents, heroin was the most used drug behind alcohol and marijuana. Users, law enforcement, and even an addiction treatment provider from the survey all agreed that heroin in Columbus was easy to come by and often laced with fentanyl, a powerful and dangerous synthetic opioid.2 Along with opioids being so readily available, one of the biggest concerns with the opioid crisis in Columbus is the number of opioid overdose deaths. In 2019, 83.7% of unintentional drug overdose deaths in Ohio involved an opioid of some kind. Franklin County, home to the city of Columbus, went from 192 unintentional drug overdose deaths in 2010 to a whopping 547 in 2019.3 Unfortunately, as the coronavirus crisis continues, the use of opioids, as well as the number of overdose deaths, is likely to increase.
Dealing with the Columbus Opioid Epidemic
Because of the staggering numbers regarding the opioid epidemic in Columbus, the city has taken several different approaches to combat and cope with the problem. Franklin Park has a variety of prevention and education programs. In many cases, these programs are tailored to the youth, a high-risk group for opioid misuse. Harm-reduction strategies are also in place to help those who are already struggling with addiction. Free Naloxone, a life-saving drug that can reverse opioid overdoses, has been distributed to people in Columbus. Residents can also get free fentanyl test strips to check for the presence of fentanyl in drugs and prevent accidental overdose. Safe Point is another harm-reduction program in place that offers services for opioid users such as safe injection instruction, clean syringe access, and overdose prevention education.4 For those who are struggling to get clean, there are also treatment programs in place that can help. We have an outpatient treatment center in Columbus that offers flexible program options in the local community for residents in need.