BOSTON – Opioid-related overdose deaths continued to decline overall year over year and the number of overdose deaths where fentanyl was present continued to rise to 85 percent, according to the latest quarterly opioid-related deaths report released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
“While there is still a lot of work to do, we are encouraged to see opioid-related deaths declining and prescriptions for Schedule II drugs significantly decreasing through our reconfigured prescription monitoring program,” said Gov. Charlie Baker in a news release.
The quarterly report found that for the first three months of 2018, opioid-related overdose deaths declined by an estimated 5 percent over the first three months of 2017, according to preliminary data. The report also found that the total number of estimated and confirmed opioid-related deaths for 2017 is 2,016, which is 133 fewer deaths than the 2,149 estimated and confirmed deaths in 2016, or a 6 percent decline.
“Our latest report provides a clear roadmap on addressing existing challenges,″ said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders in the news release. “This quarterly report and the accompanying additional analysis provide us with tremendous insight into how we can more strategically target our resources and interventions.”
The quarterly report shows for the first time the city and town where the opioid-related overdose death occurred and found that the state’s largest two cities – Boston and Worcester – recorded the largest number of opioid-related overdose deaths.
According to the report, the rate of fentanyl present in the toxicology of opioid-related overdose deaths climbed to 85 percent in 2017, while the rate of heroin or likely heroin present in opioid-related deaths declined between 2015 and 2016 and stabilized in 2017 to about 44 percent of opioid-related overdose deaths in the fourth quarter of 2017.
The Q1 2018 report findings include:
- Just over 580,000 Schedule II opioid prescriptions were reported to the Massachusetts Prescription Monitoring Program, more than a 30 percent decrease from the first quarter of 2015 (841,990 Schedule II opioid prescriptions).
- Approximately 265,000 individuals in Massachusetts received prescriptions for Schedule II opioids in the first quarter of 2018, which is more than a 30 percent decrease from the first quarter of 2015 (390,532 individuals).
- Between 2016 and 2017, confirmed opioid-related overdose death rates decreased for White non-Hispanics and stabilized for Hispanics. As previously reported, the death rate for Hispanics doubled over a three year period, from 15.6 opioid-related overdose deaths per 100,000 population in 2014 to 31.2 opioid-related overdose deaths per 100,000 population in 2016. In 2017, the death rate for Hispanics decreased slightly to 30.1 opioid-related overdose deaths per 100,000. However, the confirmed opioid-related overdose death rate for Black non-Hispanics continued to go up in 2017 and increased 82 percent between 2014 and 2017.
The Q1 2018 report also includes new information examining toxicology reports by race for select substances to help communities understand who is at risk so they can better tailor their responses to the epidemic. The report found:
- The percentage of cocaine present in the toxicology screen of opioid-related overdose deaths trended up for all races between 2014 and 2017.
- The presence of cocaine among opioid-related overdose deaths was highest among black non-Hispanics and Hispanics compared to white non-Hispanics.
- The trend of cocaine and fentanyl without heroin present in the toxicology of opioid-related overdose deaths increased across all races but the percentages are higher among black Non-Hispanic followed closely by Hispanics.