Drug Abuse Patterns and Trends in Cincinnati, Ohio: June 2013

Jan Scaglione, B.S., M.T., Pharm.D., D.ABAT

Summary of Key Findings for the 2012 Reporting Period:

  • The predominant drug issues in Cincinnati continued to involve marijuana and heroin as primary drugs of abuse.
  • There was an increase in all heroin indicators and a decrease in all cocaine indicators.


Indicators for heroin continued to increase during 2012 versus the previous 4 years. Treatment for primary heroin use, combined with other opiate/opioid admissions, accounted for nearly 26 percent of all admissions. Reports of heroin from drug items submitted for forensic analysis increased by 46.5 percent in 2012 over 2011 and by 71 percent from 2010 data. The Medical Examiner recorded 54 deaths attributed to heroin alone and an additional 70 deaths with heroin in combination with other drugs.


Indicators for marijuana in the Cincinnati region remained stable at high levels. Marijuana dominated all other reported illicit drugs among primary treatment admissions, accounting for 29.4 percent of the admissions during calendar year (CY) 2012. Mar­ijuana also accounted for 38.1 percent of reports among drug items submitted for forensic analysis for Hamilton County.


The indicators for crack and powder cocaine began to decrease in 2008 and continued to do so through 2012. Both the supply and quality of cocaine/crack cocaine on the street in Cincinnati dropped in 2008 as large drug seizures were recorded by law enforcement, and the effect carried over through 2012. Treatment for primary cocaine use accounted for only 8 percent of all admissions in 2012, compared with 9.1 percent in 2011.


Methamphetamine indicators were low in Cincin­nati compared with other drugs of abuse. There was a 59.7-percent increase in the number of clandestine methamphetamine laboratory seizures discovered during fiscal year (FY) 2012 compared with FY 2011. The increased number of clandestine laboratories discovered in 2012 was attributed to a higher number of one-pot method equipment findings. The increased data capture was surprising, especially in light of the loss of law enforcement funding used to clean up these sites in February 2011. Methamphetamine encountered in the Cincinnati area is primarily locally produced using the one-pot method


Indicators for MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) remained at a low level in Cin­cinnati during 2012, compared with 2011.

Prescription Drugs

Abuse of prescription drugs, specifically benzodiaze­pine-based tranquilizers and opioid narcotics, continued to be an ongoing drug issue in Cin­cinnati. Qualitative indicators pointed to relative high use, with some indication of stabilization occurring in 2012 from 2011. A 9.7-percent decrease in human exposure cases reported to Ohio poi­son control centers involving buprenorphine-containing phar­maceuticals occurred in 2012 from the previous year, with 41 percent of these exposures involving children age 3 or younger. An increased number of exposures involving intentional abuse of buprenorphine were reported to poison control centers in 2012, representing 33 percent of the total cases recorded and an increase of 2 percent from the previous year.

Synthetic Drugs

The Cincinnati poison control center recorded 198 human exposures to cannabimimetics and 371 human exposures to substituted cathinones from the last quarter of 2010 through June 8, 2013. The abuse of synthetic drugs continues to be an area of high concern and monitoring due to the significant adverse effects reported with use, including death.

For inquiries regarding this report, contact Jan Scaglione, B.S., M.T., Pharm.D., D.ABAT, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati Drug and Poison Information Center, 3333 Burnet Ave., ML-9004, Cincinnati, Ohio 45229, Phone: 513–636–5060, Fax: 513–636–5072,E-mail: Jan.Scaglione@cchmc.org.