Massachusetts Hits New Opioid Death High

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BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Massachusetts saw its highest-ever opioid overdose death rate last year, according to new statistics from the state Department of Public Health.

The Mass. Public Health Council presented the data at a meeting on Wednesday morning. The death rate per 100,000 jumped 8.8% over 2020, and the state saw 2,234 confirmed deaths, and estimated that there were 2,290 total deaths, both of which are a record.

The DPH blamed the increase in deaths on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and an "increasingly poisoned drug supply" which is polluted by the powerful opiate fentanyl.

The agency said that when a toxicology report was available in the deaths, a vast majority of the reports (93%) showed fentanyl in the blood stream. The presence of the drug has also been increasing by about 1% per quarter.

State officials say Native American residents make up comparatively few of the deaths, but saw the highest overall rate of death in the state, at more than 118 deaths per 100,000 compared to about 32 deaths per 100,000 overall. That rate is far and away the highest among any ethnic or racial group in the state.

Alcohol, a new toxicology point, was present in about 30 percent of opioid deaths statewide.

Governor Baker's Administration says it's included about $544 million to combat the opioid epidemic in its budget for Fiscal Year 2023.

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