Republican Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost released a study Thursday and suggested there is a link between the distribution of COVID-19 pandemic-related stimulus checks and high rates of opioid-related overdoses in his state.
“The link between pandemic relief money and opioid overdose deaths is now evident,” Yost said in a statement. “The intent was to help Americans navigate this deadly pandemic but it also fueled a tidal wave of overdoses.”
“Throwing money at a problem isn’t always the best solution,” Yost said. “Let the data be the guide to learn from the past. Addiction is a sickness you can’t cure with just cash.”
The study, based on data from the Ohio Department of Health and conducted by Yost’s Center for the Future of Forensic Science, found that as opioid-related overdose deaths increased in Ohio during the second quarter of 2020, amid the distribution of federal stimulus checks, more people died of opioid overdoses in the state than any time since 2010.
The study assessed weekly opioid overdose deaths between January 2018 and August 2020, finding a single noteworthy week in 2020. In the first 16 weeks of 2020, the study found that the state’s average weekly opioid overdose deaths was 68.5. During weeks 17-32 of 2020, however that figure increased sharply.
“The interrupted time series regression analysis indicated more than 203 deaths weekly for weeks 17–32 of 2020 compared to all other weeks,” the study said. “The result of the Granger causality test found that the identified change point (week 16 of 2020) directly influenced the increase in opioid overdose deaths in weeks 17–32 of 2020.”
Between April 2020 and April 2021, more than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses.
The high number of overdose deaths during the pandemic, according to the study, can be attributed to a number of factors, including, social isolation, loss of income or housing, decreased access to medications that aid in addiction recovery and the rapid increase in the production of fentanyl.
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