Fentanyl blamed for increase in deadly overdoses

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The rate of opioid-related deaths across the state has continued to climb, and the synthetic drug fentanyl has been tied to most of this year’s deadly overdoses.

  • In January of 2016, there were 136 deadly opioid overdoses, compared to 135 in 2015.
  • In February of 2016, there were 156, compared to 119 in 2015.
  • Last March, there were 140, compared to 108 this year. However, the Department of Public Health estimates there could be at least another 46 by the time they complete their investigations.

The Department of Public Health released their latest report on Wednesday. It suggests this year could end up being the deadliest on record for opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts.

Fentanyl has been tied back to 66% of this year’s deadly overdoses, compared to 57%, at this time last year. The synthetic drug is considered to be 50 to 100 times more powerful than heroin.

Fentanyl is typically made in laboratories in China and Mexico, then either mixed with heroin, or sold to buyers who think they’re getting heroin or prescription pills. EMTs in Massachusetts have said the drug is so strong, it usually takes more than one dose of the overdose-reversal drug Naloxone to reverse its effects.

The drug gained national attention earlier this year, after it was tied to the overdose death of music legend Prince, back in April.

The report found that while opioid overdoses involving fentanyl have increased, heroin and prescription pills overdoses have decreased.

The Baker Administration has said they’ll continue fighting back against this deadly epidemic. So far, they’ve managed to increase the number of treatment beds available, make Nalaxone more affordable and accessible through a bulk purchasing program, and encourage medical schools and dental schools to emphasize the importance of prescribing drugs appropriately.

 

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