Medical Examiner James Gill announced Monday that there were 539 accidental drug abuse deaths in the first six months of the year. The projection for overdose deaths in 2017 is 1,078, an 18 percent increase over last year.
“This is a devastating number. The idea that over a thousand Connecticut residents are going to die from accidental drug overdoses, even with the massive deployment of Narcan, that so-called wonder drug that stops overdoses. It tells us what we’re doing isn’t working,” said Senator Chris Murphy.
Gill says most of the deaths are linked to opioid abuse. More than 300 overdose deaths from January to June involved the powerful opioid fentanyl, which is blamed for a rising number of overdose deaths nationwide. 275 of the victims had heroin in their system and 170 had cocaine.
Breaking down the numbers a little further Harford topped the number of deaths so far with 41. Next comes Waterbury with 32, Bridgeport with 25, New Britain with 24 and New Haven with 20.
Officials in the Elm City estimate they are responding to overdose calls at least every other day and say they believe Narcan might be doing harm as well as good.
“I think that it gives people that they feel like they have a safe zone that they actually have Narcan so in case they do overdose somebody can take care of them, ” said Kenneth Oliver, EMS Supervisor for the New Haven Fire Department.
The epidemic contains to strain local budgets as well. Oliver says a dose of Narcan costs $59. Sometimes an overdose victim requires more than one dose.
“Even though we do have Narcan kits there’s a chance that you might not be able to make it and that’s not a good thing,” said Oliver.
The epidemic is hitting first responders in other ways, too. Officials say many times they are responding to the same person time after time.
“My concern is the wear and tear on paramedics and responders who have to not only respond at all hours of the night but also knowing that they are feeling that they might not have an effect because the epidemic is so overwhelming,” said New Haven Fire Chief John Alston.
Gill also says there were 87 homicides last year, a 33 percent decrease from 2015 and the lowest total in at least 25 years.
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