There have been at least 201 confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts in the first three months of 2018, according to a new quarterly report from the state health department.
That’s an estimated 5 percent decline compared to the first three months of 2017, according to the report. The Department of Health estimates that there will be an additional 240 to 305 deaths as part of that first-quarter tally once more information comes in.
The report also provided more information on the opioid epidemic across the state in 2017. There were 1,874 confirmed opioid-related deaths from January 2017 to December 2017, the report found.
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Out of the 1,775 deaths for which a toxicology screen was available, 85 percent of them tested positive for fentanyl, the powerful and lethal synthetic opioid. There’s also been an uptick in cocaine and fentanyl deaths without any heroin present across all races, though higher among black and Hispanic residents.
The department estimates that 2017 saw 133 fewer opioid-related deaths than the year before. The death tolls dropped for all Massachusetts residents by race except for black residents, for whom the rate increased from 15.6 per 100,000 residents in 2016 to 19.7 per 100,000 residents in 2017.
"The quarterly reports are snapshots in time and they give us extremely useful information to better understand the trajectory of this epidemic," said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel in a statement. "While we’re making progress, we continue to increase access to treatment and recovery supports, and will tailor responses for particular populations including black residents whose overdose death rates are increasing, based on this data."
Most opioid-related deaths were among white, non-Hispanic residents, with that demographic making up 1,510 of all confirmed opioid-related deaths in 2017.
For the first time, the report also looked at where the opioid epidemic is hitting the hardest by city and town within Massachusetts. The most opioid-related deaths in 2017 occurred in Boston, with 266 confirmed, followed by Worcester, with 109.