HCN News & Notes

Opioid-Related Overdose Deaths in Massachusetts Fall 5% Since Peak in 2016

BOSTON — The rate of opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts fell an estimated 5% from its peak in 2016, despite the growing presence of the synthetic opioid fentanyl as a driver of opioid-related overdose deaths, according to data in the latest quarterly opioid surveillance report by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

In 2019, the opioid-related overdose death rate was 29 per 100,000 people, compared to 30.5 per 100,000 people in 2016. Preliminary data shows that, in 2019, there were 2,023 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths, while for the same period in 2016 there were 2,097 confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths.

“This report demonstrates that focused investments in substance misuse are having an impact, but there is still a lot of work to do to curb the opioid epidemic in our communities,” Gov. Charlie Baker said. “We are encouraged by the expanded use of the prescription monitoring program and continued reduction of new prescriptions, and remain committed to making new investments in prevention, education, treatment, and recovery for individuals and families across the Commonwealth.”

While the presence of fentanyl in the toxicology of opioid-related overdose deaths remains high at 93% from January to September 2019, the rate of heroin or likely heroin present in opioid-related overdose deaths has continued to decline since 2014, and was reported as 25% during the first nine months of 2019.

The percentage of opioid-related overdose deaths where prescription drugs were present trended downward from 2014 through 2016, and has remained stable since, with approximately 13% of opioid-related overdose deaths in 2019 having prescription opioids present in toxicology.