FILE - opioids, OxyContin, prescription drugs, medicine

Ohio drug deaths declined by 22 percent in 2018, which is the first time the state saw a decrease in nine years, but Gov. Mike DeWine believes that there is still a lot of work to do.

Despite the progress, there is “no reason that we should take our foot off the gas pedal,” Dan Tierney, a spokesperson for the governor’s office, told The Center Square in regard to efforts to fight the drug epidemic.

Although there was a substantial decrease from 4,854 deaths to 3,764 deaths, the 2018 number is still substantially higher than the number of deaths just a few years ago. In 2015, there were 3,050 drug-related deaths in the state. In 2009, there were with 1,423 deaths.

Tierney said that there were many factors that likely led to the death toll decrease. This includes an increased awareness about the dangers of fentanyl as well as the additional prevention and treatment programs.

In 2017, when DeWine was still attorney general, he launched the “Recovery Ohio” plan, which allocated statewide funds to fight the epidemic. This included investments in preventative education, treatment and law enforcement resources.

Much of the addiction to opioids has been caused by a person getting addicted to prescription medicine, according to Tierney. Currently, there are more than 100 opioid-related lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies ongoing in the state. He said that settlement money awarded to the state or localities could help fund preventative measures as well as measures to help repair damages caused by drug addiction.

Staff Reporter

Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and Ohio for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.