Fentanyl at an ‘all time high’ as opioid-related overdose deaths drop – Boston Herald

The presence of fentanyl has risen to “an all-time high” in the state, health officials said today, as opioid-related overdose deaths drop by 11 percent in the first half of 2019 compared to this time last year.

The downward trend in fatal overdoses continues despite the increasing presence of fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid, according to preliminary data released by the Department of Public Health.

In the first six months of 2019, there were 938 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts, 112 fewer than the 1,050 deaths in the first half of 2018. The 2018 opioid-related overdose death rate also fell an estimated 4 percent from 2016, the latest quarterly report shows.

But the presence of fentanyl has reached an “all-time high,” according to the report.

In the first quarter of 2019, fentanyl was present in 92 percent of opioid-related overdose deaths where there was a toxicology screen. In 2018, fentanyl was present in 89 percent of opioid-related overdose deaths where there was a toxicology screen.

“Despite the battle we continue to fight against fentanyl’s presence in Massachusetts, the overall decrease in the first half of this year marks continued progress in decreasing opioid-related overdose deaths,” Gov. Charlie Baker said.

The presence of amphetamines has also been increasing since 2017. In the first quarter of 2019 it was present in about 8 percent of opioid-related overdose deaths where there was a toxicology screen. Meanwhile, the percent of heroin in opioid-related overdose deaths has been declining since 2016 and fell to 30 percent in the first quarter of 2019.

“Today’s report signals that we are headed in the right direction,” Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel said. “We are determined to build on the progress we have made and bring hope to families and communities across Massachusetts who are struggling with the impact of opioid addiction.”

The presence of prescription opioids in fatal overdoses has remained at around 15 percent since 2016. The number of people getting prescriptions for those drugs has decreased by about 40 percent since 2015.



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