Connecticut’s overdose deaths from opioid and heroin abuse continues to grow. Connecticut’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner shares their findings for drug related deaths. We used their reports to build these charts.
Connecticut Drug Epidemic Overdose Deaths Overview
Since 2012, overdose deaths in Connecticut have nearly tripled.
This increase in drug related deaths were not limited to a single drug. In fact, every possible lethal drug killed more citizens in the first six months of 2017 than in the whole of 2012. However, efforts at improving the plight of addicts may be improving. The midyear projection for 2017 was off by 38 deaths in total.
Until 2017, Heroin was the leading cause of drug deaths in Connecticut.
We can trace Heroin’s rise in popularity to several sources. First, federal and state officials placed restrictions on opioid pain medications. Consequently, oxycodone was harder to obtain in large doses. In view of the tighter supply, street prices of opioid pain medication shot up. In the end, many people addicted to pain medications turned to heroin for their fix.
Then, Purdue Pharma changed the formulation of oxycontin. As a result, addicts could no longer use the drug to get high. This further spiked the demand for heroin.
In addition, during this time, the flow of drugs from Asia has increased to meet the insatiable demand for heroin. Independent stories from outlets like Vice and Breitbart News report on the booming opium trade in both Southeast Asia and Afghanistan. Accordingly, heroin became the only game in town for most users. And with increased supply, the price remained low in dollars.
But heroin was not alone in killing Connecticut citizens.
Since 2012, no drug compares to fentanyl. This group of synthetic opioids went from nearly nothing to the deadliest drug in the state.
Like most drugs, fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs. Most commonly that’s heroin or cocaine, but prescription opioids, including methadone are often part of the cocktail that takes a life. Generally speaking the trend looks awful. But there is good news. Among one class of drugs, overdose deaths appear to be dropping.
Hydrocodone and oxycodone show signs of leveling off and decreasing. Oxycodone deaths went from 110, an all-time high in 2016, to 82 in 2017. Likewise, Hydrocodone was only found in 17 overdose deaths in 2017.
We’ll glad to see that prescription opioid medications are not claiming as many lives in drug overdoses. This suggests success in the efforts by federal, state and private entities to reduce abuse of opioid medications. However, the surge in fentanyl related deaths dampens any joy we might feel. Likewise, the increase in number of overdoses where one very important prescription opioid is found gives us cause for alarm.
Methadone helps addicts get off heroin. This opioid at therapeutic doses prevents addicts from experiencing a high from heroin. However, that won’t stop some addicts from chasing the high. As a result, we see methadone in an ever growing number of overdoses.
As more addicts turn to recovery and clinics to manage the sickness of withdrawal, we need to focus our attention on how to ensure the addicts develop the skills to quit for good. Our new section on getting help is a great resource for addicts and those who love them to find resources.
Benzos for short. These psychoactive drugs treat anxiety and panic disorders. They sedate those who use them. And they get mixed frequently with opioids. In every year that we have data, the number of opioid deaths that involve Benzos has increased.
In 2017, the presence of Benzos in opioid related overdoses exceeded 270. That’s up from 232 in 2016 and reflects the continued trend towards mixing drugs. Benzos are the drug of choice to mix with other drugs in chasing a high. Taken alone, Benzos might alleviate intense anxiety. But the way they affect brain chemistry tends to amplify the high from opiates and cocaine. And when addicts have a tolerance, this is the only way they can get high from a typical dose.
Like Benzos, booze is often found in the mix. Last year, alcohol contributed to almost 200 opioid related overdoses. Likewise, medical examiners found alcohol in 75 cocaine related overdoses.
Meth remains a minor player in Connecticut. However, the rate of growth is quite high. In the first half of 2017 as many people died from meth overdoses as did in all of 2016. The final numbers for meth were up in 2017, but it remains
Demographic Composite of Overdose Deaths
The above charts highlight the problem. And we can see a clear picture of what drugs kill people in Connecticut. However, they are a surface level examination. We had to look at the overviews first to really appreciate the scope of the crisis. But we quickly realized we needed to go deeper.
So we did.
We broke down the last three years of reports. Those represent nearly 3,000 lives lost. Consequently, we’re able to understand the types of individuals impacted by the Connecticut Drug Epidemic. The statistics we analyzed are fairly stable. As a result, we can create a demographic profile of those who die from drug overdoses.
Take sex for example. Drug addiction impacts men far more than women in the state.
Since 2015, almost three times as many men have died from a drug overdose than women.
Similarly, the breakdown by age is fairly consistent. Since 2015, individuals between the ages of 30 and 59 account for more than 70% of deaths, statewide. The data also show dual peaks for overdose deaths among those aged 30-39 and again from 50 to 59.
In addition, deaths are overwhelmingly traceable to heroin, fentanyl and other opioids. Our research discovered that more than 90% of overdoses were opioid related. While that was heroin predominantly, the top drug killer in Connecticut is now fentanyl. We take a more in depth look at how Fentanyl is reshaping the Drug Crisis in our state later on.
Place of Injury
Likewise, we see consistency in where people overdose. Since 2015, nearly four out of every five overdoses happened in a person’s home. But there is plenty of uncertainty. The second highest classification is unknown.
Finally, we see consistency in the race of those who die from overdoses. Whites or white hispanics made up greater than 90% of all drug related overdose deaths.
Our composite victim of overdose deaths looks like this: A middle aged, white or hispanic male, overdoses on one or several opioids or opiates, often in combination with other drugs or alcohol. This occurs either in his home or the home of a friend/relative.
As we mentioned, fentanyl overwhelmed Connecticut in recent years. When we reviewed the raw data on overdose deaths from the OCME, the data overwhelmed us. First, let’s look at the raw numbers.
|Month||Number of Fentanyl Deaths||All Drug Overdoses||Percentage of Deaths involving Fentanyl|
As can be seen, fentanyl did not show up in many overdose deaths in early 2015. But in 2017 alone, it was in almost two out of every three. In the last six months of 2017 Fentanyl was found in more than 70% of all drug over dose deaths.
Looking at it quarterly, you can see the rapid progression.
Fentanyl is not going anywhere. In fact, as police arrest more fentanyl smugglers and dealers, we can be sure even more is on the streets. And as we reported earlier, Fentanyl is now the leading cause of drug deaths in the US. It is expected to top heroin as the leading cause of drug deaths in Connecticut as well.
Overdose Deaths Contrast Connecticut Counties
Fairfield is Connecticut’s most populous county. According to 2015 US Census estimates, nearly one million people live in the state’s southwest corner. The region has beautiful beaches and charming shops in traditional New England downtowns. Furthermore, the state’s wealthiest residents live there.
Something else distinguishes Fairfield from Connecticut’s other heavily populated counties. The rate of overdose deaths in Fairfield County is significantly less than those in Hartford, New Haven and New London counties.
|County||2015||2016||2017||12 Month Average||Population||Deaths per 100,000 2015-2017||Deaths per 100,000 in 2017|
Hartford is the only Connecticut County with a death rate over 30 over the last three years. But when only looking at 2017, four counties exceed 30 deaths for every 100,000 residents. All told, Connecticut’s death rate for 2017 was 28.93. Only 11 states had a higher mortality rate than Connecticut in 2017. Further, the CT mortality rate was up from the CDC’s reported rate of 27.4 in 2016. The 28% increase was in-line with the overall increase in the United States.
Overdose Deaths in Connecticut Cities
As with Connecticut counties, we reviewed the deaths in each designated municipality in the state. We’ve summarized the data in the table below:
|City||2015||2016||2017||12 Month Average||Deaths per 100K||Deaths per 100K 2017|
Over the last three years of available data, only 20 of 169 municipalities reported no overdose deaths. Furthermore, the median population for those towns was 2,753.5. Only three towns which did not report any overdose deaths in the last three years had a population in excess of 10,000 citizens. None exceeded Wilton’s 18,714.
Since we initially reported these statistics, two more citizens in Ashford, Connecticut died of drug overdoes. That brought the total deaths in the tiny town to 4 for the year. These were the first deaths from drug overdoses in Ashford since 2014. And that death in 2014 was the only other death reported due to drug overdose in Ashford since 2012. Due to the small population of Ashford, those four deaths are enough to make Ashford the town with the highest mortality rate in Connecticut in 2017. It beats out Hartford, which had the highest death count in the state.