BOSTON, MA – At least 201 Massachusetts residents died from an opiate overdose in the first three months of 2018, according to new data from the Department of Public Health, which shows that the death toll for the quarter could increase to more than 500.  In its latest quarterly report on opioid overdoses, the department said that deaths decreased by an estimated 5 percent during the first quarter of 2017. Click here to see the breakdown of city by city .
There were 201 confirmed overdoses related to fatal opiates from January to March of this year, according to the department, which estimates that there will be an additional 240 to 305 deaths eventually counted for that period of time.
The powerful synthetic fentanyl opioid was found in 85 percent of opiate-related deaths in 2017, where a toxicology analysis was also available, for a total of 1,507 out of 1,775 cases. Cocaine was present in approximately 49 percent of those deaths and benzodiazepines in approximately 38 percent.
The report also provides a snapshot of the dramatic growth of the opiate crisis in recent years, tracking deaths until 2000, when 379 Massachusetts residents died of an overdose related to opioids. The 2,016 confirmed and suspected overdose deaths recorded last year represent an increase of more than 430 percent of that number.
Annual deaths from opioids exceeded 1,000 in 2014 first, rising to 1,353 from 961 reported in 2013.
In the first year year-on-year since 2010, 2017 figures show a 6 percent decrease in 2,149 confirmed and suspected overdose deaths in 2016. The Department of Public Health in February initially reported a fall of 8.3 percent between 2016 and 2017, and the new report uses revised numbers.
The department estimates that there will be an additional 62 to 70 deaths in 2016 and an additional 129 to 155 deaths in 2017 once the numbers are finalized.
When disaggregated by race, the DPH report shows that confirmed opioid mortality rates decreased for white non-Hispanic residents and were "stabilized" for Hispanic residents, a population for which the rate doubled between 2014 and 2016. The opiate mortality rate for non-Hispanic residents will rise in 2017, marking an increase of 82 percent since 2014, according to the report.
"As we progress, we continue to increase access to treatment and recovery supports, and we will adapt responses for particular populations, including Black residents whose overdose death rates increase, according to this data," said the Commissioner of Public Health, Dr. Monica Bharel in a statement.
The report published on Tuesday is the first time that the department's quarterly opioid data lists the municipality where the opiate deaths occurred. It was found that most were registered in Boston (266 last year) and Worcester (109), the largest cities in the state.
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