Overdose deaths are projected to rise almost 20 percent this year, according to statistics released this week by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Through the first half of 2017, there have been 539 deaths as a result of accidental overdoses — 322 involving fentanyl and 257 involving heroin.
Almost 1,100 deaths from overdoses are projected this year, including 644 projected deaths from fentanyl and 514 from heroin, the medical examiner’s office said. Last year, 917 people died as a result of an overdose.
“If the current rate of accidental drug intoxication deaths continues, Connecticut will have over 1,000 deaths due to drugs by the end of 2017,” Chief Medical Examiner James Gill said in a statement. “The vast majority of these continue to be due to the abuse of opioids; fentanyl has surpassed heroin as the most common opioid of abuse.”
There have been at least 29 deaths from overdoses in Meriden, Wallingford, Southington and Cheshire to date, including 16 in Meriden. Traces of fentanyl were discovered in 20 of the 29 deaths.
Last year, there were 47 combined deaths from overdoses in Meriden, Wallingford and Southington, 24 of which were in Meriden. There were no overdose deaths in Cheshire last year.
Lisa Conti, associate professor of medical sciences at Quinnipiac University, said drug users are typically unaware they are ingesting fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin.
Conti said increased awareness and equipping authorities with naloxone, an overdose reversal antidote, are possible solutions to curbing the epidemic.
Meriden resident Sue Willette’s sons have faced challenges with narcotics over the past two years, prompting her to form Roadway of Hope, a non-profit that aims to help those recovering from addiction. Last weekend, she coordinated the second annual Roadway of Hope rally to raise money for the organization’s cause.
Willette said suppliers are adding fentanyl to heroin because it is cheaper. She also said users can be prone to overdosing soon after being released from the hospital from a previous overdose.
Willette hopes to see more detox beds available
“Obviously what we’re doing is not enough,” she said.