A new report out of the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring (OSAM) Network finds that while opioid prescriptions are falling throughout Ohio, methamphetamine remains widely available in the state. In the Cleveland area, powdered cocaine and meth are becoming more available, and the number of clients entering treatment for meth use increased.
The report compiled data from January to June 2018 and conducted focus group interviews involving active and recovering drug users, law enforcement, and treatment providers.
Meth availability increased in most areas across Ohio except for the Athens region. Participants in the report noted that meth’s “lower price and longer-lasting high compared to crack cocaine” were the main drivers behind the widespread availability of the drug.
OSAM investigator Tom Sherba says an increase in crystal meth, which is cheap and more potent than powdered meth, is expanding beyond rural areas.
“There’s not a whole lot of reason to do the powdered shake and bake form any longer, and that was done in the rural areas,” Sherba said. “But now that the cartels are bringing in crystal methamphetamine with the fentanyl and heroin, it’s rising in the cities now.”
Sherba says the rise in crystal meth is visible in cities like Youngstown and Akron-Canton.
The report also found that prescription opioid use decreased in most Ohio regions, including Akron-Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Youngstown. Earlier this year, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy reported that the number of opioid prescriptions in Ohio declined 37 percent from 2012 to 2018.
[Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services - Office of Quality, Planning and Research]
The overall decrease of opioid prescription availability in the state may be due to doctors cutting back on prescribing painkillers as one response to the opioid epidemic. The OSAM report also cited the use of the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS), as another reason why opioid use may be declining. OARRS reduces doctor shopping by tracking the opioid dispensing in a database.
But the synthetic opioid fentanyl, which is often cut with other drugs including cocaine and heroin, remains a major issue in Ohio.
Fentanyl continues to be the main driver of opioid deaths in the area, especially since it’s often mixed with other drugs like cocaine, says Scott Osiecki, CEO of the Cuyahoga County Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board.
“Folks who are using cocaine, they don’t have a tolerance for any opiate especially as strong as fentanyl,” Osiecki said. “So the presence of fentanyl in cocaine is something that we need everyone to know about.”
Osiecki says one way to address the issue is providing drug users with fentanyl test strips, which can identify drugs that are laced with the synthetic opioid.