Like many other states, Rhode Island is seeing an increase in deaths from drug overdoses in the first quarter of 2020, compared to the same period in earlier years.
State officials said data from January, February, and March 2020, indicates there was a 22 percent increase in the number of that state’s residents who died as a result of accidental drug overdoses. In 2020, the state recorded between 93 and 95 deaths from accidental overdoses, while in 2019, the same time period only saw 77.
Officials said the overdose rate for the first quarter of 2020 was a record high.
In 2019, the state recorded just 308 accidental overdose deaths. So far, the total number of accidental overdose deaths is at 129, state officials said, nearly 42 percent of last year’s total.
Officials attributed the rise in overdose deaths to the presence of synthetic opioids like carfentanil. Additionally, officials said they are seeing a rise in overdoses involving more than one substance.
“Illicit drugs have always been dangerous, but right now, they are more deadly than ever,” Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott said. “If you do use drugs, do not use alone, and make sure that your friends and family have naloxone available. Steps like these can save a life and give someone an opportunity to take the first step on their own personal journey of recovery. There is hope for everyone because recovery is absolutely possible for everyone.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a hand in the increase, officials said.
“The COVID-19 crisis has made it more challenging for people with substance use disorder to stay connected to life-saving resources and support,” said Kathryn Power, Director of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals (BHDDH). “Polysubstance use, including the use of stimulants like methamphetamine, cocaine, and crack-cocaine, are also on the rise. It is even more critical to leverage the collaborative efforts of Governor Raimondo’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force to address this emerging trend.”