New data shows fatal overdoses in Warwick, Providence doubled in first half of 2020

Health

FILE – This photo provided by the U.S. Attorneys Office for Utah and introduced as evidence in a 2019 trial shows fentanyl-laced fake oxycodone pills collected during an investigation. In a resumption of a brutal trend, nearly 71,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2019 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a new record high that predates the COVID-19 crisis. The numbers were driven by fentanyl and similar synthetic opioids, which accounted for 36,500 overdose deaths. (U.S. Attorneys Office for Utah via AP)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The ongoing coronavirus pandemic combined with the opioid epidemic has had an impact in almost every Rhode Island municipality, according to the state’s task force.

In a monthly meeting of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force, new data revealed that, during the first six months of 2020, almost every municipality in Rhode Island has been impacted by an increase in fatal overdoses.

Dr. Rachel Scagos, a senior public health epidemiologist with the R.I. Department of Health (RIDOH), noted four Rhode Island communities of concern.

Scagos said data from the first six months of 2020 shows number of Warwick and Providence residents suffering fatal overdoses has doubled compared to the same time period in 2019.

In North Kingstown and Scituate, Scagos said the total number of fatal overdoses that occurred among residents in the first six months of 2020 has exceeded the total number of fatal overdoses for all of 2019.

Statewide, Scagos said there were almost 200 drug overdose-related accidental deaths in the first half of the year. Data on the task force website shows 235 as of Sept. 28.

Scagos noted fatal overdoses with any drug increased by 24%, with fatal overdoses for any opioid, including fentanyl, increasing by 33%, compared to the same time period in 2019.

Substances contributing to cause of death

In a presentation given by Scagos, she said the majority of fatal overdoses involve illicit drugs only, though the proportion of fatal overdoses involving prescription-only drugs has decreased over time.

Specifically, data shows the majority (88%) of fatal overdoses continue to involve any opioid. The majority of opioid-involved fatal overdoses are due to illicit opioids, such as fentanyl, and not prescription opioids.

Additionally, state data shows about half of the fatal overdoses from January 2020 to June 2020 involved cocaine, and Scagos said the findings were similar to the same time period in 2019.

Demographics

State health data shows people between the ages of 25 and 54 “suffer the greatest burden of fatal overdose,” according to Scagos.

The data also revealed more about overdoses and race.

In 2019, the rate of fatal overdoses were higher among the Black population compared to the white population.

Data shows from January 2020 to June 2020, the burden of fatal overdoses among the Black population has not changed, however, the burden among the white population has increased.

Both populations are experiencing an equal burden in 2020.

Over time, Scagos said the rate of fatal overdose among Hispanics increased, but it remains lower than the rate among non-Hispanics.

Data also found the majority of fatal overdoses in 2020 continue to occur in private settings.

The task force is holding its next meeting Nov. 9.

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