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HEALTH Announces Updated Drug Overdose Numbers

Today the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reports the 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 seven apparent accidental drug overdose deaths.

"My administration is committed to redoubling our efforts to drive down the number of overdose deaths," Governor Gina M. Raimondo said. "These latest numbers demonstrate that we continue to face a public health crisis. We need everyone to come together to stop this epidemic." In 2014, there were 232 apparent accidental drug overdose deaths. Of those, 208 (90%) of the 231 screened cases involved at least one opioid drug and/or opioid medication. 83 (37%) of the 225 screened cases involved fentanyl.

These apparent accidental drug overdose deaths were among people who appeared to be using in 31 different cities and towns in Rhode Island, affecting men and women of all ages and ethnicities, and four towns in Massachusetts:

165 men and 67 women ranging in age from 20 to 72; 43 people in their twenties, 64 people in their thirties, 61 people in their forties, 53 people in their fifties, and 11 people in their sixties and seventies; 205 people were white, 26 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. In 2014, Rhode Island Emergency Medical Services (EMS) administered 1739 doses of Narcan. From April 2 – January 7, 2015, emergency departments in Rhode Island reported to have administered Narcan 135 times.

"These numbers point to the need for new, life-saving initiatives like The Providence Center's AnchorED program involving several area hospitals," said Elizabeth Roberts, Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. "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."

"With each death, a piece of Rhode Island dies. It's time for communities to speak out, and up, and together to help people get into treatment and get the drugs out of our medicine cabinets and off of the street," says Michael Fine, MD, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health.

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 December, 123,239 individuals filled a prescription for a schedule 2, 3, or 4 drug in Rhode Island. Likewise, in December alone, 1.3 million doses of stimulants, 3 million doses of schedule 2 pain medicines, and 6 million doses of benzodiazepines were prescribed.

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