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.
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.
Heroin rarely works alone in overdoses.
Heroin is the most common opiate, but morphine and codeine are showing up more often.
But heroin was not alone in killing Connecticut citizens.
While not as lethal as heroin, Cocaine claims lives at an alarming clip. In fact, more than half of all cocaine related deaths come with a heroin chaser.
Cocaine also showed up in combination with fentanyl. And when they mix, the results are deadly.
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.
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.
As can be seen, 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.
One opioid that is prescribed to reduce pain is showing a steady gain, however. Methadone also 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.
Benzos for short. These psychoactive drugs treat anxiety and panic disorders. They sedate those who use them. And they get mixed frequently with opioids.
Taken alone, Benzos might alleviate intense anxiety. But the way they affect brain chemistry tends to amplify the high from heroin alone. And when addicts have a tolerance to heroin, this is the only way they can get high from a typical dose.
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. When the final numbers for 2017 are released, we may determine that meth deserves closer scrutiny.
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 30 months of reports. Those represent over 2,000 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 rate of attrition in the dominant age group in part explains the lower numbers in older residents.
In addition, deaths are overwhelmingly traceable to heroin, fentanyl and other opioids. Our research discovered that more than 90% of overdoses were opioid related.
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.
We discovered some interesting findings related to medical facilities in our research. We’ll share more of our findings in the future.
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 this year alone, it was in three out of every five.
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 less than half of those in Hartford, New Haven and New London counties.
|County||2015||2016||2017||12 Month Avergae||Population||Deaths per 100,000|
Or depicted visually.
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||Population||Deaths per 100K|
Over the last thirty months of available data, only 22 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 30 months had a population in excess of 10,000 citizens. None exceeded Wilton’s 18,714.