Fentanyl Presence Growing as Opioid Deaths Decline Slightly

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While opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts declined for the second year in a row, prevalence of the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl has continued to climb to the point where it is now present in almost every death that’s screened for drugs.

According to the State House News Service, the latest Massachusetts overdose data, released Wednesday, showed fentanyl was present in 92 percent of opioid deaths where a toxicology screen occurred in the first quarter of 2019, up from 89 percent in 2018.

The new statistics landed White House officials highlighted their efforts to go after fentanyl traffickers.

Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel highlighted the data at a Public Health Council meeting, where she said “too many people” are still dying from opioid overdoses, but that there are “signs of progress” in fighting the epidemic.

There were 938 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths—or more than five a day—in the first half of 2019, a figure the Department of Public Health said represents a decline of more than 10 percent from the 1,050 deaths logged in the first half of 2018.

The Department of Public Health also released new data on rescues using the overdose reversal drug naloxone, also known as Narcan. In 2018, a total of 4,079 rescues were reported to the DPH’s Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution program.

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