Heroin Use Reaches Crisis Levels

The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Commissioner Patricia Rehmer said this spring that on average one Connecticut resident a day dies of a drug overdose, which also is the leading cause of death for males ages 18 to 25.

In many cases the drug is heroin and its use has reached crisis levels in the region, across the state and nationwide. This had lead to a spike in the number of overdose deaths and an increased push by legislators for public education and resources for treatment and law enforcement.

The state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner reports a nearly 48 percent jump in heroin overdose across the state. Heroin was a contributing factor in 257 accidental overdose deaths in Connecticut last year, compared to 174 in 2012.

Task Force have been meeting around the state to develop strategies and actions steps to tackle the growing threat of illicit opioid use and Rx Drug abuse. Representatives from MCCA have been attending meeting in three regions. The following is an update from the most recent meeting sponsored by HVCASA (Housatonic Valley Coalition Against Substance Abuse) led by Alison Foulton.

  • In March, US Attorney General Eric Holder called the rise in overdose deaths from heroin & other Rx pain-killers an “urgent public health crisis”. Rx meds containing opiates remain easily accessible. ER visits, admission to treatment programs & overdose rates continue to rise. He said that the Justice Department plans on using a mix of enforcement & treatment efforts to combat the problem. He also encouraged law enforcement agencies to train & equip their personnel with the life-saving, overdose-reversal drug known as Narcan.
  • MA and VT have declared their own public health emergency (Illinois joined them on 5/12/14). When asked, what’s stopping CT & other states from declaring a “public health crisis”, Alan Nolan suggested that those other state’s choice may have been precipitated by their even greater lack of existing infrastructure to provide needed treatment & recovery services.
  • The CT Legislature passed bill (HB5487) that gives civil & criminal immunity to a lay person who administers Narcan, to a person he/she believes is experiencing an opioid-related drug overdose (effective 10/1/14).
  • Used along with the “Good Samaritan” laws, which grants immunity from criminal prosecution to those seeking medical help for someone experiencing an overdose, Narcan can save lives.



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