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Officials: Pandemic fueling overdose deaths in Connecticut

December 19, 2020 GMT

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Overdose deaths from opioids are on the rise in Connecticut as the coronavirus pandemic has compounded social stressors and increased isolation.

State health officials said Friday the state is projected to record more than 1,300 overdose deaths by the end of the year, the Hartford Courant reports. That compares to 1,200 fatal overdoses in 2019.

Through October, the state had seen a 13% increase in drug overdose deaths compared to the same period last year.

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Connecticut has recorded a 300% increase in opioid overdose deaths since 2012, said Dr. James Gill, the state’s chief medical examiner.

The data reflects a national trend, the Courant reports. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this week that about 81,000 people fatally overdosed on drugs between June 2019 and May 2020 — the highest number ever recorded in a 12-month period.

Fentanyl, a highly dangerous synthetic opioid, has been involved in about 85% of Connecticut’s overdose deaths this year, Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said at a virtual roundtable discussion.

The horse tranquilizer Xylazine also is increasingly showing up in overdose deaths.

Stressors from the pandemic, including isolation and concerns about unemployment, may be contributing to the state’s spike, Delphin-Rittmon said.

“One of the things that Covid has really done is pushed an already marginalized or skeptical population even further away from the various forms of treatment that have been put in place to assist,” said Mark Jenkins, director of the Greater Hartford Harm Reduction Coalition.