Health Care

Opioid overdose deaths trending downward in 2017

Opioid overdose deaths trending downward in 2017”

The number of people dying from opioid overdoses in MA dropped by a stunning 10 percent during the first nine months of this year, compared with the same period in 2016, according to new data that provides mounting evidence the opioid crisis may be easing.

The National Safety Council, a nonprofit organization promoting health and safety in the USA, unveiled a memorial in Chicago Friday dedicated to the victims of opioid overdose, News Channel 20 reports.

The last quarterly report, released in August, showed a 5 percent decline in opioid deaths from the comparable period - the first six months of 2016. That number is higher than the total number of deaths in 2014, but marks an improvement from the estimated 1,637 deaths from January to September of previous year.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said that while the report is encouraging, there are still too many people in MA dying from opioid-related overdoses.

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The new data marks the second consecutive quarter that estimated opioid deaths have dropped, though the presence of the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl continued to rise, with the report tracking fentanyl present in 81 percent of overdose deaths where a toxicology screening occurred.

The Governor's Office pointed to steps the state has taken to address the crisis, including increasing substance abuse prevention and treatment funding, limiting first-time opioid prescriptions and strengthening the monitoring of prescription opioids. "Our administration will continue efforts to combat this public health epidemic that is devastating families in every corner of the Commonwealth, and looks forward to introducing new proposals in the near future and working with the Legislature to pass meaningful reform to strengthen our efforts from prevention to recovery".

Each pill contains the face of someone who has died because of an opioid overdose, according to the report.

Approximately 271,000 people in MA received prescriptions for Schedule II opioids in the third quarter of 2017, which is 30 percent less than the first quarter of 2015, when there were 390,532 individuals receiving Schedule II opioids.

The newly updated data from the DPH does not reflect the number of non-fatal overdoses or the use of the overdose-reversal medication naloxone that many first responders now carry.



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