As Accidental Drug Deaths Continue, Fentanyl Plays Big Role

Sep 7, 2016

"Some people just don't know what they're getting, or what dose they're getting."
Dr. James Gill

The rate of accidental drug overdose deaths in Connecticut grew again in the first six months of 2016, and the lab drug fentanyl is playing a big role in that. 

Last year, 729 people died because of accidental overdoses. This year's number is projected to be 888. That's according to data released by Dr. James Gill, Connecticut's chief medical examiner. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is a big culprit. Last year, 188 people died with fentanyl in their systems. But this year, since just January, 223 people have died.

"Overall, the acute drug intoxication deaths continued to increase, and particularly with regard to fentanyl deaths," Gill said.  

Gill also said he's projecting an increase in deaths involving heroin and cocaine.

"Some of those deaths in the cocaine and the heroin groups are combination deaths, where fentanyl is also involved," he said.  "So that may be the dominant player in some of these deaths."

Gill said that some people may be intentionally combining different drugs, while others may be unaware.

"Some people just don't know what they're getting, or what dose they're getting," Gill said.  Take, for instance, a recent rash of deaths in New Haven that came about because people thought they were buying cocaine, when they were buying fentanyl instead.

Finally, he's also seeing an increase in deaths involving both fentanyl and various prescription sedatives like Valium.

WNPR's Opioid Addiction Crisis Reporting Initiative is supported by Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network's MATCH Program.