MA Opioid-Related Overdose Deaths Decreased by 4% in 2018
Friday, February 15, 2019
This marks the second straight year in which opioid-related overdose deaths have declined.
“While we are encouraged to see fewer opioid-related overdose deaths for a second consecutive year and a 35 percent decrease in reported opioid prescriptions since 2015, the opioid epidemic continues to present a very serious challenge that is made more difficult due to the presence of fentanyl. We look forward to working with our colleagues in the Legislature to continue ramping up the Commonwealth’s funding for prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery services in the FY20 budget, in addition to the Administration’s proposal to strengthen the hand of law enforcement by providing $5 million to support a new Regional Fentanyl Interdiction Task Force,” said Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.
In 2018, preliminary estimates showed 1,974 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths or 82 fewer deaths than the 2,056 confirmed and estimated deaths in 2017.
There were 2,099 confirmed deaths in 2016.
In total, opioid-related overdose deaths declined six percent between 2016 and 2018.
Fentanyl Still a Key Factor
Despite opioid-related overdose deaths decreasing, the report found that Fentanyl still remains a big factor.
According to the report, Fentanyl was present in the toxicology of 89 % of those who died of an opioid-related overdose and had a toxicology screen in the third quarter of 2018.
Meanwhile, the rate of heroin or likely heroin present has been declining since 2016, falling to about 34 percent of opioid-related overdose deaths that had a toxicology screen in the third quarter of 2018.
Other Report Findings
The report showed that in the fourth quarter of 2018, there were 546,000 Schedule II opioid prescriptions reported to the Massachusetts Prescription Monitoring Program, representing a 35% decrease from the first quarter of 2015.
Just over 246,000 individuals in Massachusetts received prescriptions for Schedule II opioids in the fourth quarter of 2018, a 37 percent decrease from the first quarter of 2015.
Other findings of the latest opioid report include:
- The percentage of opioid-related overdose deaths where prescription drugs were present trended downward from 2014 through 2016 and has remained stable since then. In the third quarter of 2018, approximately 15 percent of opioid-related overdose deaths had prescription opioids present in toxicology.
- Since 2017, the presence of some stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines in opioid-related overdose deaths has been increasing.
- In the third quarter of 2018, the greatest number of suspected opioid-related overdoses treated by Emergency Medical Services continued to be among males aged 25-34, accounting for 25 percent of opioid-related incidents with a known age and gender.
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