PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Twenty-two people died of drug overdoses in Rhode Island from Jan. 1 through 13, two to three times more than the number normally seen during that time period, health officials said Friday.
But they had no explanation for the spike in deaths, which involved a variety of illicit and prescription drugs and were scattered in 13 cities and towns around the state. Most of the deaths occurred over the weekend, suggesting that people were "binging," said Health Director Michael D. Fine. Those who died ranged in age from 20 to 62.
"We're here to issue a warning," said Fine said at press conference Friday morning, where he was accompanied by Craig Stenning, director of the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, and Lt. Robert S. Wall of the state police.
The warning, he said, was aimed at drug users and their friends and families, in the hope that news of the deaths would encourage people to seek treatment. "This is a time for all of us to get together and reach out to those who have this chronic disease," Fine said. "People live in a certain denial -- thinking they can get high without risking death."
Stenning said that treatment is both accessible and affordable, and that people can call (401) 462-4680 during business hours, and 211 at any time to find help.
Of the 22 deaths, 19 were screened with blood tests that found evidence of an overdose. Three cases were presumed overdoses because of the nature of the death and materials found nearby.
Of the 19 screened, 13 indicated the presence of the painkiller fentanyl, but not the synthetic fentanyl linked to deaths last year. Other drugs detected included cocaine, opiates, benzodiazepines, methamphetamine, oxycodone and carisoprodol.
Twenty of victims were white, two were black; 16 were men and eight women.
"These are our sons, our daughters, our mothers, our fathers," Fine said.
By Felice Freyer
Photograph; left to right, Lt. Robert S. Wall, Micheal D. Fine, Craig Stenning
Friday 17 January 2014
The Providence Journal
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