A study released Thursday by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost links COVID-19 stimulus checks to increases in deaths caused by opioid overdoses across the country.
The study, which Yost said in a news release had been peer-reviewed and accepted for publication by the International Journal of Drug Policy in April, used data from the Ohio Department of Health.
“The link between pandemic relief money and opioid overdose deaths is now evident,” Yost said. “The intent was to help Americans navigate this deadly pandemic but it also fueled a tidal wave of overdoses.”
The data, Yost said, showed spikes in opioid-related overdose deaths during the second quarter of 2020 coincided with the delivery of federal stimulus checks. More Ohioans died of opioid overdoses in the second quarter of 2020 than at any point since 2010, Yost said.
However, the report concluded the spike in deaths could be a result of many factors, not only the stimulus payments, and it said more research is needed to investigate the connection between the payments and the overdose deaths.
According for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 100,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses from April 2020 to April 2021, the most recorded in a 12-month period since the CDC began publicly tracking opioid deaths in 1999, Yost said.
The CDC showed 78,056 opioid-related overdose deaths the previous year.
Families Against Fentanyl, an Akron-based nonprofit, recently asked the Biden administration to label fentanyl a weapon of mass destruction. It published a report, Fentanyl: The State We’re In, that showed fentanyl fatalities increased nearly fivefold in six states: Alaska, Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, California and Texas.
The Families Against Fentanyl report found fentanyl poisoning deaths increased at a faster pace among teens. Teen deaths tripled in the past two years. Among Black teens, deaths were five times higher than they were two years ago, according to the group’s analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“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 was conducted by a team led by Jon Sprague, director of science and research for Yost’s office and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation Eminent Scholar at Bowling Green State University.
By J.D. Davidson