Latest Reports from the Connecticut Medical Examiner

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.

accidental drug overdose deaths since 2012

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.

Heroin

Until 2017, Heroin was the leading cause of drug deaths in Connecticut.

heroin found in any death in connecticut 2012-2017

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.

Cocaine

But heroin was not alone in killing Connecticut citizens.

cocaine found in any connecticut overdose 2012-2017

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.

both heroin and cocaine found in any deathCocaine also showed up in combination with fentanyl. And when they mix, the results are deadly.

Fentanyl

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.

Prescription opioids

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.

Methadone

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.

Benzodiazepine

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.

Methamphetamine

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.

Sex

Take sex for example. Drug addiction impacts men far more than women in the state.

Percentage of Overdose deaths by age 2015-2017

Since 2015, almost three times as many men have died from a drug overdose than women.

Age

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.

Percentage of overdose deaths by age from 2015 through June of 2017

The rate of attrition in the dominant age group in part explains the lower numbers in older residents.

Opioids

In addition, deaths are overwhelmingly traceable to heroin, fentanyl and other opioids. Our research discovered that more than 90% of overdoses were opioid related.

Percentage of Opioid related deaths from 2015 through June 2017

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.

Percentage of overdoses by place of injury 2015 through June 2017

We discovered some interesting findings related to medical facilities in our research. We’ll share more of our findings in the future.

Race

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.

Percent of overdose deaths by race 2015 through June 2017

In summary

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.

Fatal Fentanyl

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
Jan 2015 4 52 7.69%
Feb 2015 10 53 18.87%
Mar 2015 13 50 26.00%
Apr 2015 19 54 35.19%
May 2015 10 50 20.00%
Jun 2015 9 62 14.52%
Jul 2015 24 76 31.58%
Aug 2015 6 51 11.76%
Sep 2015 17 66 25.76%
Oct 2015 37 87 42.53%
Nov 2015 32 76 42.11%
Dec 2015 8 52 15.38%
Jan 2016 28 70 40.00%
Feb 2016 31 69 44.93%
Mar 2016 25 69 36.23%
Apr 2016 43 79 54.43%
May 2016 48 78 61.54%
Jun 2016 48 79 60.76%
Jul 2016 41 76 53.95%
Aug 2016 42 76 55.26%
Sep 2016 38 73 52.05%
Oct 2016 33 68 48.53%
Nov 2016 55 99 55.56%
Dec 2016 50 81 61.73%
Jan 2017 52 86 60.47%
Feb 2017 48 89 53.93%
Mar 2017 57 97 58.76%
Apr 2017 44 77 57.14%
May 2017 64 98 65.31%
Jun 2017 58 91 63.74%

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
Fairfield 104 165 75 137.6 948,053 14.51
Tolland 20 35 11 26.4 151,420 17.43
Middleex 39 34 23 38.4 164,063 23.41
Litchfield 47 29 33 43.6 183,603 23.75
Windham 35 17 25 30.8 116,573 26.42
New Haven 211 263 150 249.6 859,470 29.04
New London 61 90 49 80 271,863 29.43
Hartford 212 284 172 267.2 895,841 29.83

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
ANDOVER 1 0 0 0.4 3,262 12.26
ANSONIA 3 6 4 5.2 18,854 27.58
ASHFORD 0 0 2 0.8 4,251 18.82
AVON 0 2 1 1.2 18,414 6.52
BARKHAMSTED 0 0 0 0 3,685 0.00
BEACON FALLS 0 2 1 1.2 6,081 19.73
BERLIN 4 2 2 3.2 20,560 15.56
BETHANY 1 0 1 0.8 5,510 14.52
BETHEL 0 2 1 1.2 19,529 6.14
BETHLEHEM 0 0 0 0 3,473 0.00
BLOOMFIELD 1 0 3 1.6 20,749 7.71
BOLTON 0 0 1 0.4 4,947 8.09
BOZRAH 0 0 0 0 2,603 0.00
BRANFORD 5 5 6 6.4 28,145 22.74
BRIDGEPORT 38 74 32 57.6 147,629 39.02
BRIDGEWATER 0 0 0 0 1,659 0.00
BRISTOL 17 34 17 27.2 60,452 44.99
BROOKFIELD 2 2 1 2 17,143 11.67
BROOKLYN 1 1 0 0.8 8,259 9.69
BURLINGTON 1 1 0 0.8 9,623 8.31
CANAAN 0 0 0 0 1,185 0.00
CANTERBURY 1 0 2 1.2 5,089 23.58
CANTON 0 0 2 0.8 10,330 7.74
CHAPLIN 1 0 1 0.8 2,255 35.48
CHESHIRE 1 0 3 1.6 29,262 5.47
CHESTER 0 1 0 0.4 4,277 9.35
CLINTON 2 2 2 2.4 13,047 18.40
COLCHESTER 1 3 1 2 16,130 12.40
COLEBROOK 4 1 0 2 1,436 139.28
COLUMBIA 4 1 0 2 5,434 36.81
CORNWALL 0 0 1 0.4 1,387 28.84
COVENTRY 0 0 1 0.4 12,438 3.22
CROMWELL 0 3 1 1.6 14,034 11.40
DANBURY 20 26 10 22.4 84,657 26.46
DARIEN 1 1 0 0.8 21,787 3.67
DEEP RIVER 0 2 2 1.6 4,516 35.43
DERBY 12 13 7 12.8 12,700 100.79
DURHAM 2 0 0 0.8 7,301 10.96
EAST GRANBY 0 0 1 0.4 5,199 7.69
EAST HADDAM 1 1 1 1.2 9,081 13.21
EAST HAMPTON 4 2 1 2.8 12,858 21.78
EAST HARTFORD 7 12 9 11.2 50,821 22.04
EAST HAVEN 8 4 3 6 28,935 20.74
EAST LYME 2 3 0 2 19,343 10.34
EAST WINDSOR 1 3 2 2.4 11,400 21.05
EASTFORD 0 0 0 0 1,750 0.00
EASTON 0 0 1 0.4 7,625 5.25
ELLINGTON 0 1 1 0.8 15,916 5.03
ENFIELD 13 12 11 14.4 44,323 32.49
ESSEX 3 0 1 1.6 6,586 24.29
FAIRFIELD 3 3 1 2.8 61,523 4.55
FARMINGTON 1 6 5 4.8 25,629 18.73
FRANKLIN 1 1 0 0.8 1,975 40.51
GLASTONBURY 4 3 0 2.8 34,678 8.07
GOSHEN 0 0 0 0 2,904 0.00
GRANBY 0 1 0 0.4 11,298 3.54
GREENWICH 4 4 1 3.6 62,695 5.74
GRISWOLD 1 5 2 3.2 11,830 27.05
GROTON 8 7 6 8.4 39,692 21.16
GUILFORD 0 1 1 0.8 22,350 3.58
HADDAM 1 1 1 1.2 8,292 14.47
HAMDEN 9 7 4 8 61,218 13.07
HAMPTON 0 0 1 0.4 1,849 21.63
HARTFORD 81 103 58 96.8 124,006 78.06
HARTLAND 0 0 0 0 2,127 0.00
HARWINTON 2 0 0 0.8 5,493 14.56
HEBRON 2 3 0 2 9,552 20.94
KENT 0 0 1 0.4 2,869 13.94
KILLINGLY 4 3 4 4.4 17,131 25.68
KILLINGWORTH 1 0 0 0.4 6,455 6.20
LEBANON 1 4 0 2 7,259 27.55
LEDYARD 4 1 2 2.8 15,025 18.64
LISBON 0 1 1 0.8 4,310 18.56
LITCHFIELD 0 0 0 0 8,212 0.00
LYME 0 0 0 0 2,374 0.00
MADISON 1 1 1 1.2 18,223 6.59
MANCHESTER 14 21 8 17.2 58,007 29.65
MANSFIELD 2 3 0 2 26,043 7.68
MARLBOROUGH 2 2 0 1.6 6,430 24.88
MERIDEN 17 30 18 26 59,988 43.34
MIDDLEBURY 2 1 0 1.2 7,634 15.72
MIDDLEFIELD 0 1 0 0.4 4,407 9.08
MIDDLETOWN 17 12 13 16.8 46,756 35.93
MILFORD 9 15 8 12.8 53,592 23.88
MONROE 1 3 0 1.6 19,833 8.07
MONTVILLE 1 5 0 2.4 19,396 12.37
MORRIS 0 0 0 0 2,293 0.00
NAUGATUCK 7 6 7 8 31,538 25.37
NEW BRITAIN 35 40 27 40.8 72,808 56.04
NEW CANAAN 2 1 0 1.2 20,387 5.89
NEW FAIRFIELD 0 0 1 0.4 14,126 2.83
NEW HARTFORD 3 0 0 1.2 6,764 17.74
NEW HAVEN 48 77 30 62 130,322 47.57
NEW LONDON 19 22 14 22 27,179 80.94
NEW MILFORD 7 5 2 5.6 27,276 20.53
NEWINGTON 0 2 10 4.8 30,604 15.68
NEWTOWN 3 1 0 1.6 28,022 5.71
NORFOLK 0 0 0 0 1,643 0.00
NORTH BRANFORD 1 2 1 1.6 14,263 11.22
NORTH CANAAN 3 2 0 2 3,194 62.62
NORTH HAVEN 2 3 2 2.8 23,828 11.75
NORTH STONINGTON 0 1 0 0.4 5,256 7.61
NORWALK 12 11 6 11.6 88,485 13.11
NORWICH 18 29 19 26.4 39,899 66.17
OLD LYME 0 0 0 0 7,521 0.00
OLD SAYBROOK 3 3 0 2.4 10,160 23.62
ORANGE 1 2 1 1.6 13,944 11.47
OXFORD 1 1 1 1.2 13,013 9.22
PLAINFIELD 3 4 4 4.4 15,077 29.18
PLAINVILLE 1 5 1 2.8 17,773 15.75
PLYMOUTH 3 2 1 2.4 11,813 20.32
POMFRET 0 0 0 0 4,163 0.00
PORTLAND 1 4 0 2 9,391 21.30
PRESTON 0 0 1 0.4 4,707 8.50
PROSPECT 0 1 0 0.4 9,739 4.11
PUTNAM 8 1 1 4 9,372 42.68
REDDING 0 0 0 0 9,293 0.00
RIDGEFIELD 0 1 1 0.8 25,244 3.17
ROCKY HILL 2 1 0 1.2 20,021 5.99
ROXBURY 0 0 0 0 2,187 0.00
SALEM 0 0 1 0.4 4,183 9.56
SALISBURY 1 0 1 0.8 3,638 21.99
SCOTLAND 0 0 0 0 1,686 0.00
SEYMOUR 3 2 3 3.2 16,475 19.42
SHARON 4 2 1 2.8 2,706 103.47
SHELTON 2 6 4 4.8 41,296 11.62
SHERMAN 1 0 0 0.4 3,668 10.91
SIMSBURY 3 4 1 3.2 24,348 13.14
SOMERS 0 4 0 1.6 11,432 14.00
SOUTH WINDSOR 0 0 1 0.4 25,789 1.55
SOUTHBURY 1 0 1 0.8 19,675 4.07
SOUTHINGTON 9 9 6 9.6 43,817 21.91
SPRAGUE 2 1 0 1.2 2,951 40.66
STAFFORD 4 2 2 3.2 11,837 27.03
STAMFORD 6 10 6 8.8 128,874 6.83
STERLING 1 1 2 1.6 3,764 42.51
STONINGTON 1 3 1 2 18,370 10.89
STRATFORD 8 14 7 11.6 52,609 22.05
SUFFIELD 2 3 0 2 15,662 12.77
THOMASTON 1 0 0 0.4 7,621 5.25
THOMPSON 4 1 1 2.4 9,290 25.83
TOLLAND 3 1 1 2 14,849 13.47
TORRINGTON 14 13 17 17.6 34,906 50.42
TRUMBULL 1 5 1 2.8 36,628 7.64
UNION 0 0 0 0 843 0.00
VERNON 4 7 5 6.4 28,959 22.10
VOLUNTOWN 1 1 1 1.2 2,579 46.53
WALLINGFORD 5 10 2 6.8 44,893 15.15
WARREN 1 0 0 0.4 1,417 28.23
WASHINGTON 1 0 1 0.8 3,466 23.08
Waterbury 59 55 38 60.8 108,802 55.88
WATERFORD 1 3 0 1.6 19,281 8.30
WATERTOWN 4 4 4 4.8 21,911 21.91
WEST HARTFORD 2 6 3 4.4 63,053 6.98
WEST HAVEN 14 18 7 15.6 54,927 28.40
WESTBROOK 4 2 1 2.8 6,902 40.57
WESTON 0 0 0 0 10,387 0.00
WESTPORT 0 1 0 0.4 27,899 1.43
WETHERSFIELD 4 6 3 5.2 26,367 19.72
WILLINGTON 1 3 0 1.6 5,908 27.08
WILTON 0 0 0 0 18,714 0.00
WINCHESTER 3 1 4 3.2 10,829 29.55
WINDHAM 12 13 7 12.8 24,799 51.61
WINDSOR 2 5 2 3.6 29,016 12.41
WINDSOR LOCKS 6 1 1 3.2 12,537 25.52
WOLCOTT 0 0 0 0 16,673 0.00
WOODBRIDGE 1 1 1 1.2 8,886 13.50
WOODBURY 0 0 0 0 9,636 0.00
WOODSTOCK 0 2 0 0.8 7,838 10.21

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.