Only 22 of Connecticut's 169 towns have not had at least one reported fatal overdose from heroin or pharmaceutical narcotic painkillers between 1997 and 2007, according to a study recently released by the Yale School of Public Health.
The study, culled from data from the state's medical examiner's office, found that more than 2,200 people in Connecticut fatally overdosed on pharmaceutical narcotic painkillers, heroin or methadone during that time.
Robert Heimer, the study's lead investigator, found that the number of fatal heroin overdoses has decreased to 111 annually in recent years, from an average of 131 a year from 1997 to 2000. But deaths from prescription narcotic painkillers and methadone have more than doubled, to 113 a year from 2005 to 2007 from 43 a year in the late 1990s. The researchers also found a shift in narcotic painkillers abuse and addiction from the state's cities to its suburbs, with deadly results.
"We're really seeing an increase in the rate of deaths in the suburban areas of the state," Dr. Heimer said.
He and his team are studying what they call "injectors in the suburbs." "They're a generation younger than the urban injectors we've been studying," he said.
He forecasts an increase in heroin-related deaths should prescription-drug abusers move to the far-cheaper heroin, as they have elsewhere.
"Looking at the current trends in pharmaceutical opiate deaths," he said, "might give you a clue what to expect if people make the transition."
September 27, 2009