Fentanyl Is Driving the Rise in Opioid Deaths

Henrietta Brewer
August 20, 2018

Construction workers died from opioid overdoses at six times the average rate for all Massachusetts workers between 2011 and 2015, according to a recent report released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH).

Although the use of prescription painkillers has declined nationwide, analysts say the presence of the deadly opioid fentanyl in the illicit drug supply is the primary cause for the continued surge in deaths. Because it's cheap and relatively easy to make, it's often mixed with other drugs like heroin and cocaine.

Following a trend from previous years, the highest death rates were seen in West Virginia, with 58.7 overdose deaths for every 100,000 residents.

A record number of Americans died of drug overdoses in 2017, lending to what experts and the Trump administration consider a growing national health emergency - and new efforts to curb the opioid crisis. Last year, almost 30,000 deaths involved these drugs - an increase of more than 9,000 over 2016.

The report found that workers in occupations with higher rates of work-related injuries had higher rates of opioid overdose deaths.

When describing deaths involving specific drugs, "a single death might be included in more than one category", Rossen and lead author Farida B. Ahmad, of the Division of Vital Statistics at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, noted in the report. The CDC said some drug overdose deaths require lengthy investigations and are not reported for six months after the death.

That decrease is second only to Wyoming where the CDC estimates a 33 percent drop in overdose deaths. "But just like the opioid medications used in humans, these drugs have potentially serious risks, not just for the animal patients, but also because of their potential to lead to addiction, abuse and overdose in humans who may divert them for their own use", Gottlieb said in a statement.

"While the opioid epidemic is a major concern, it is worth mentioning there are non-opioids overdoses representing 32.1%" of the total overdose deaths for 2017, Ebied said.

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