For a year, health experts have warned of the upsurge in drug overdoses. Data from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has confirmed the numbers are on the rise in 2020, and a new report shows just how true that is and how serious the situation is.
In the New Haven area, a group called DataHaven reports that fatal overdoses reached an all-time high last year, up 40% from 2019. A total of 141 people died in 2020, up from 101, l year before, putting the New Haven area well above the national increase of about 30%. This report uses data from the Quinnipiac Valley Health District and the New Haven Health Department.
New Haven City Community Services Administrator Dr Mehul Dalal spoke to Dan Corcoran of NBC Connecticut to discuss the matter.
Dan: “So Dr. Mehul Dalal 40% is a really big increase. Were you surprised to see this? “
Dr Dalal: “I really appreciate the report as being able to compile all of the results for the past year, but I knew it was going to happen. We saw the data and as we saw the number of overdoses and overdoses increase. So was not a total surprise before the report was released, but it certainly puts, you know, a very important point about the seriousness of this problem. “
Dan: “In your opinion, what is contributing to this spike in overdoses, is the pandemic to blame or something else?”
Dr Dalal: “I think we have to look to the pandemic, part of that is helping. I think a lot of people who use substances depend on a regular set of services. This was disrupted during the pandemic.
Dan: “Fentanyl is by far the most common drug in these overdoses … the DataHaven report says that last year it was involved in 94% of the deaths. It hasn’t always been the case. . So why is this of concern to you now? “
Dr Dalal: We observe a pattern where urban populations, in particular minorities, who were once again not the main population, when the epidemic was linked to prescriptions, are increasingly impacted by this epidemic.
Dan: And we know the City of New Haven has tried to be proactive about drug overdoses in recent years. Last year, the city established the Harm Reduction Task Force. So what exactly are we doing to fix the problem now?
Dr Dalal: “Although drugs are one of the most important treatments and interventions to help reduce overdose and overdose-related deaths, it is very important to keep in mind that we have a wide range of drugs. people who use drugs and some, for a variety of reasons, are simply not able to access treatment or are not ready to access treatment. Our circle of concern therefore goes beyond simple treatment, but includes those who actively use drugs and are trying to maintain their best health so that they can get to the point where they are ready to accept treatment. “
To view the full DataHaven report, click here.
What is fentanyl?
According to the CDC, pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid approved for the treatment of severe pain, usually advanced cancer pain, and which may be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
It is prescribed by a doctor as a transdermal patch or lozenge, but it can also be misused and abused. Some people take fentanyl illegally by squeezing the fentanyl out of the patch and then injecting it.
Fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA – with or without the user’s knowledge – to increase its euphoric effects, according to the CDC. Doctors warn that there is no safe level of drug use and that fentanyl, in particular, poses serious risks.
Fentanyl affects everyone differently, depending on their height, weight and health, whether that person has taken fentanyl before or is taking other medications at the same time, according to the CDC. The strength of fentanyl also varies. Too high a dose can cause chest pain, slowed breathing, seizures, fainting, coma and death.
Officials from the National Institutes of Health report that the fentanyl used illegally most often associated with recent overdoses is made in laboratories and is sold illegally as a powder, deposited on blotting paper, put in droppers and sprays. nasal, or made into pills that look like other prescription opioids.
The US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has set up a free and confidential information service (in English or Spanish), open 24 hours / 365 days, for individuals and their family members confronted with mental health or substance abuse disorders. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or addiction issues, you can call 1-800-622-HELP (4357).
The Connecticut State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services also has a line of action for distressed adults aged 18 or older. This number is 1-800-HOPE-135 (1-800-467-3135). You can also get help and resources by calling 2-1-1.