BOSTON (AP) — Opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts declined by 1.5% in the first nine months of this year compared to the same time last year, according to preliminary data released Wednesday.
The state had 1,696 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths in the first nine months of 2022, which is about 25 fewer deaths than during the same time in 2021, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health said. The department noted that the number of opioid-related overdose deaths in 2021 — 2,301 — was a 9.4% increase over 2020.
Fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid, was detected in 94% of the deaths in the first six months of 2022 where a toxicology report was available. Cocaine was present in 53% of toxicology reports in the first half of this year, a 6% increase over the same time last year.
Last year, more than 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses — the highest tally in U.S. history. Preliminary government data suggests U.S. drug overdose deaths have stopped rising this year, though officials urge caution that past plateaus didn’t last.
Gov. Charlie Baker said fighting the opioid epidemic has long been a priority of his administration, which has worked with the Legislature to increase funding. The administration’s fiscal year 2023 budget includes $597.2 million for harm reduction, treatment, and recovery programs as well as other substance addiction programming, the Health Department said.
“We are proud of our efforts to make these services more accessible and available to individuals and their families across Massachusetts, but also recognize that the work must continue, especially given the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic which has exacerbated substance misuse here and across the country,” Baker said in a statement.