CURRENT STATUS OF THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC IN CONNECTICUT
We previously reviewed the efforts taken in Connecticut to combat the opioid crisis, and noted that the number of opioid deaths was projected to be 1,078 at the end of 2017. (See blog Published March 16, 2018). We also reviewed the new law effective January 1, 2018, which law was meant to try to lower access to opioids and to address this growing epidemic. Certainly, the hope was for the number of overdose deaths to decline in this calendar year.
Unfortunately, the numbers released for the first half of 2018 show no slowing down in the opioid epidemic in Connecticut. Through June, 2018, 515 people had died from drug overdoses, with the synthetic opioid fentanyl contributing to a substantial number of those deaths; specifically, that drug was present in 370 of those deaths. (More info here). While the number of deaths and overdoses are alarming, the number of opioid deaths had been steadily increasing since 2012 and, therefore, these numbers may at least show that the numbers are starting to level off for this year as opposed to increasing further. Additional efforts are being put into place in our state to try to further combat this epidemic, which include increasing the availability of naloxone and increasing access to medication assisted treatment, and the use of federal grants. The drug naloxone was recently used to save the lives of approximately ninety individuals during the mass overdose that occurred in the vicinity of the New Haven Green, which overdoses were the subject of local and national attention.
In addition, Congress is close to passing its own bill to combat the opioid crisis, which seeks to take certain actions such as stopping the import of illegal drugs such as fentanyl, boosting research on non-opioid pain treatments, and making it easier for Medicare recipients to get substance abuse services. The bill would also allow for the undertaking of a pilot program of Medicare coverage for opioid addiction treatment and would allow doctors to prescribe drugs that limit opioid cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms to more patients than currently allowed. This bill could be voted on in the Senate very soon and, if approved, would be one step closer toward the passage of a final bill on this issue. (More info here).
With all of these efforts being put into place on the local and national levels, the hope is that these numbers will continue to level off and perhaps maybe next year we will start to see a decline in these numbers for the first time in years. Only time will tell if these efforts will, in fact, assist in successfully combating this opioid crisis.