Overdose deaths increased in 2020


BOSTON (WWLP) – Opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts increased by 5 percent in 2020 according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH).

There were 2,104 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths in 2020, an estimated 102 more than the prior year and slightly above the previous peak of 2,102 in 2016. This is the first increase in annual opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts in three years and coincides with the extraordinary public health challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nationwide, Massachusetts is among the states with the smallest increases in all drug overdose deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed drug overdose deaths surged by 29 percent nationally in the year between September 2019 and September 2020, with Massachusetts showing a smaller increase in the single digits.

The Baker-Polito Administration aims to combat the opioid epidemic, especially among the Commonwealth’s most disproportionately impacted communities.

“Both the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid epidemic have underscored the importance of supporting disproportionately impacted communities, and as we address both issues, our Administration has continued to focus on equity as a core component of our response,” said Governor Charlie Baker.

The presence of benzodiazepines, amphetamines, and prescription opioids in opioid-related overdose deaths have remained stable, according to toxicology screens.

“We recognize that the anxiety, stress, and loss of social supports resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year have been especially challenging for people who struggle with substance use disorder,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito.

The powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl continues to be the main driver of opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts.

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