Opioid overdose deaths continued to climb in first half of year
BOSTON >> Fentanyl helped fuel an increase in opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts over the first six months of the year, according to state public health officials whose new numbers show the addiction epidemic's continuing toll even as state officials pour time and money into fighting it.
The Department of Public Health (DPH) on Wednesday reported 488 confirmed cases of unintentional opioid overdose deaths since January, a total that could grow by 431 to 509 deaths when accounting for active cases. The powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl was confirmed in 66 percent of those cases, up from 57 percent in 2015.
Health officials said current unintentional overdose deaths are higher than the first six months of 2015. At 1,531, confirmed opioid overdose deaths during 2015 in Massachusetts were up 18 percent over 2014. Opioid deaths in 2014 were up 41 percent over 2013, according to DPH.
"Collecting statewide data on fentanyl-related deaths will play a critical role as the Commonwealth works to bend the trends and combat the opioid crisis in our communities," Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement. "While we have completed several reforms and passed landmark legislation, this deadly epidemic is still devastating too many Massachusetts families and treatment, education and prevention will remain a top priority for our administration."
While deaths are still on the rise, data culled from the state Prescription Monitoring program shows the number of prescriptions for opioids and the number of patients receiving those prescriptions are at their lowest level since the first quarter of 2015.
The DPH report also found that emergency medical personnel administered the overdose-reversing drug Naloxone 1.4 times per incident on average. Officials say that's evidence that more of the drug is now needed to reverse overdoses.
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