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Crack and Meth Use Down in Ohio; Heroin and Prescription Drug Use Up

A new report shows that cocaine and methamphetamine use in Ohio has decreased slightly, but that prescription drug abuse continues to rise. These figures are provided in the latest 80-pad “Surveillance of Drug Trends in the State of Ohio” report generated by the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring (OSAM) Network.

OSAM interviews active and recovering drug users, treatment professionals, law enforcement officers, and crime lab personnel to collect its data, providing treatment community and policy makers with the information needed to plan for addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery services. OSAM’s findings are published twice a year. The latest report summarizes data collected from June 2008 to January 2009 by regional epidemiologists across Ohio.

“While we are encouraged to see a downward trend with cocaine and methamphetamine use, we continue to maintain concern with the alarming proliferation of prescription drug abuse and the relatively high availability of heroin,” commented Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services (ODADAS) director Angela Cornelius Dawson.

She continued, “Our goal must at all times be to help reduce the stigma that underlies the disease of addiction, no matter the drug of choice, so as to ensure prevention, treatment, and recovery support services remain well-funded and accessible to all who need them.”

Oxymorphone and Suboxone (prescription drugs developed to help people detox from opiates) rates are increasing in Athens, Cincinnati, and Dayton; oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin) rates are surging in Columbus and Cleveland; and Subutex (another opiate withdrawal drug) is appearing in Cleveland, Dayton, and Toledo. These prescription drugs, like heroin, continue to be the most prevalent among young white people.

Xanax and other benzodiazepines are identified as a growing problem in Akron, Athens, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown. Most abusers appear to be dependent on opioids for self-medicating purposes to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Given the expanding use of Suboxone among treatment providers and private physicians for opioid detoxification and maintenance, the researchers note that more research is needed to understand diversion of this important medication.

Ritalin and Adderall, drugs commonly used to treat attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder in children, are being abused at increasing rates in Athens, and treatment providers have noted an increase in the injection use of oxycodone, Suboxone, and Subutex.

The August 2008 report first alerted the public to a sudden spike in heroin availability and use, which remains unchanged in all regions of the state except Columbus, where it is reported to be in moderate decline. LSD use is also decreasing throughout the state.

Ecstasy use remains high across the state with the exception of Dayton, and marijuana continues to be high in availability and use (except in Cincinnati and Toledo), However, epidemiologists report than it is now being used frequently in conjunction with cocaine, PCP, embalming fluid, and cough syrup.

The research points to a marked decrease in the use of crack and powder cocaine in all regions except for Columbus, where the use of crack cocaine remains moderately high. Methamphetamine use is declining across all regions as meth lab busts have increased over the last 6 months. Epidemiologists did not report increases in methamphetamine users seeking treatment, however. Methamphetamine users remain difficult to access, in part due to the stigma associated with abuse of this drug.