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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 212 apparent accidental drug overdose deaths, 10 of which occurred in the first 14 days of December.

"If there is one holiday gift we can give this year, it is the gift of life and recovery. If you know someone who is struggling with drug abuse, help them get into treatment today. Give them the love and support they need to save their lives. These latest drug overdose numbers suggest that this epidemic is far from over. We need everyone to come together to stop this epidemic," says Michael Fine, MD, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health.

Of the total number of apparent accidental drug overdose deaths since January 1, 2014, 187 (90%) of the screened cases involved at least one opioid drug and/or opioid medication. 74 (37%) of the screened cases involve fentanyl.

These apparent accidental drug overdose deaths have taken place in 31 different cities and towns in Rhode Island affecting men and women of all ages and ethnicities and four towns in Massachusetts:

•152 men and 60 women ranging in age from 20 to 65. •40 people in their twenties, 61 people in their thirties, 56 people in their forties, 47 people in their fifties, and 8 people in their sixties; •188 people were white, 23 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 1532 doses of Narcan. From April 2 – November 25, emergency departments in Rhode Island reported to have administered Narcan 102 times.

"These numbers point to the need for new, life-saving initiatives like The Providence Center's AnchorED program involving several area hospitals. Six months ago, recovery coaches began working in the emergency rooms, encouraging survivors of drug overdoses to get help. So far, nearly 90% of those seen by recovery coaches have chosen to get help. We are saving people from a second or third overdose by having mentors show them the path to recovery. These numbers demonstrate both hope and potential," says Craig Stenning, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH).

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 November, 110,859 individuals filled a prescription for a schedule 2, 3, or 4 drug in Rhode Island. Likewise, in November alone, 1.1 million doses of stimulants, 2.6 million doses of schedule 2 pain medicines (the increase from October reflects the addition of hydrocodone to schedule II drugs), and 5.2 million doses of benzodiazepines were prescribed.

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