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HEALTH Announces Updated Drug Overdose Numbers

Today the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reports the latest numbers on apparent accidental drug overdose deaths, use of Narcan by Rhode Island Emergency Medical Services, and prescribed controlled substances.

Since January 1, 2014, there have been 162 apparent accidental drug overdose deaths, nine of which occurred in the month of October. Five of the nine apparent accidental drug overdose deaths ioccurred between Wednesday, October 8 and Friday, October 10.

Of the total number of apparent accidental drug overdose deaths since January 1, 2014, 141 (90%) of the screened cases involved at least one opioid or medication. At least 59 (38%) of the screened cases involve fentanyl that appears to have come from an illicit source.

These apparent accidental drug overdose deaths have taken place in 30 different cities and towns in Rhode Island affecting men and women of all ages and ethnicities:

115 men and 47 women ranging in age from 20 to 65. 31 people in their twenties, 48 people in their thirties, 37 people in their forties, 40 people in their fifties, and 6 people in their sixties; 148 people were white, 13 were black, and 1 was Asian.

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, 2014, Rhode Island Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has administered 1267 doses of Narcan. From April 2nd – October 14th, emergency departments in Rhode Island have administered Narcan 87 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 not decreasing. In September, 116,383 individuals filled a prescription for a schedule 2, 3, or 4 drug in Rhode Island. Likewise, in September alone, 1.16 million doses of stimulants, 1.6 million doses of schedule 2 pain medicines, and 5.4 million doses of benzodiazepines were prescribed.

"It is clear that Rhode Island continues to experience a prescription drug and street-drug overdose crisis. Despite all of the media attention and the increased focus in the medical community, overdoses and over-prescribing are still happening. This is still a major crisis and we need to continue to put forth our state's best effort to combat addiction and overdose deaths," says Michael Fine, MD, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health.

Craig Stenning, Director of the RI Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH), reminds Rhode Islanders that access to treatment is available through the Medicaid Expansion of the Affordable Care Act; recovery coaches are available to mentor individuals through the early stages of their recovery; Narcan kits are available through treatment centers; and immediate access to substance abuse treatment is available to individuals through their primary care physicians.

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