September 14, 2018

Drug deaths expected to remain level in 2018, following years of staggering increases

State officials project accidental drug deaths to remain virtually flat this year, marking the first break in the momentum of an epidemic that has shown double-digit increases year after year since at least 2012.

Connecticut's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Thursday announced a projected overdose death total of 1,030 for 2018 — almost identical to the 2017 total of 1,038. There were 515 overdose deaths in the first six months of 2018, the medical examiner reported.

That 1,030 is still very near the record high death toll of 1,038 set last year, but it's a welcome change in the deadly trajectory of double-digit percentage increases that have persisted since 2012, when the medical examiner's office first began breaking out this category of death.

This projection is consistent with federal data released last month. Despite another big increase in drug deaths from calendar years 2016 to 2017, a rolling 12-month total in data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention appeared to have crested, the Mirror reported.

Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said that while she was pleased to see the state projections, she believes state officials still have much work to do.

"People are still dying of overdoses," Delphin-Rittmon said. "We can't let up. Our intention is to keep vigilantly addressing this."

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy echoed the commissioner's sentiments.

"Far too many Connecticut families continue to be affected by the opioid crisis. Far too many lives have been cut short. Far too many communities torn apart. It is a public health emergency that knows no socioeconomic or geographical bounds," Malloy said in a statement.

"The good news is that for the first time in years, we are projected to see a decrease in accidental overdose deaths," he said. "Even so, what remains abundantly clear is that we must persist in our efforts to combat this crisis."

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