Today the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reports the updated data on apparent accidental drug overdose deaths, use of Narcan by Rhode Island Emergency Medical Services, and prescribed controlled substances. Since January 1, 2015, there have been twenty-seven apparent accidental drug overdose deaths, nineteen of which have screened positive for Fentanyl.
These nineteen cases mark an increase in the last few months in the number of suspected drug overdose deaths involving Fentanyl, a prescription painkiller that is also being manufactured and distributed as an illicit drug, frequently in place of or mixed with heroin. Because of its potency and its ability to cause severe respiratory suppression, it is estimated that close to three-quarters of the accidental drug overdoses this January will be the result of Fentanyl.
"We saw a similar spike in fentanyl-related overdose deaths last year. Effectively, we are back where we were a year ago," said Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, Michael Fine, M.D. "This problem is very real. This is a problem that has no boundaries, that isn't limited by location, gender, or age, and, as the numbers indicate, is not going away."
The numbers include twenty-one men and six women from at least 15 cities and towns in RI and 1 in Southern MA. All twenty-seven people appear to be white and range in age from 22 to 62.
Naloxone (Narcan) is an emergency antidote to opioid overdose. It can be used in emergency situations to potentially reverse the effects of drug overdoses. Since January 1, Rhode Island Emergency Medical Services (EMS) have administered 166 doses of Narcan and emergency departments in Rhode Island reported to have administered Narcan 13 times.
Data from Rhode Island's Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), which are available to the public on the Department's website, continue to demonstrate that the amount and volume of prescribed controlled substances is substantial. In January, 113,986 individuals filled a prescription for a schedule 2, 3, or 4 drug in Rhode Island. Likewise, in January alone, 1.2 million doses of stimulants, 2.7 million doses of schedule 2 pain medicines, and 5.5 million doses of benzodiazepines were prescribed.