DE Monthly Overdose Deaths Continue to Rise
Delaware Public Health officials are seeing an increase in suspected overdose deaths in Delaware since last November. Officials say suspected accidental overdose data is reported by the Division of Forensic Science and is considered preliminary until all data is finalized. The increase of suspected overdose deaths since November is 18.4%. Public Health officials say there were 53 suspected overdose deaths in Delaware in January – a 47% increase over January of 2022. The Division of Forensic Science says that most overdose deaths involve more than one substance – often fentanyl is added without the potential users knowledge. DPH is increasing its messaging around fentanyl and targeting recreational drug users – including youth.
Additional information from DPH:
In 2021, Delaware reported that there were 515 confirmed overdose deaths, with more than 83% involving the use of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid pain reliever that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. According to DFS, most overdose deaths involve more than one substance. Unknown to the potential user, fentanyl is being added to drugs like counterfeit anxiety medication and pain medication. There are fentanyl analogs being identified such as para-fluorofentanyl which is consistent with surrounding areas like Baltimore and Philadelphia.
Additionally, Delaware agencies have observed an increase in xylazine in surrounding states. Xylazine, a non-opioid veterinary tranquilizer not approved for human use, has recently been linked to an increasing number of overdose deaths nationwide. According to DFS, xylazine has been identified in overdose deaths in Delaware, and the Delaware State Police (DSP) also confirmed that between October 2021 and January 2023, xylazine was present in 283 cases. According to DSP, these samples are the only ones that were scheduled for trial. Of those 283 cases, xylazine was mainly found alongside or found in combination with powder/chunks or illicit prescription drugs. Additionally, xylazine-positive cases have been found in combination with fentanyl, Fluorofentanyl, acetyl fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, tramadol, and methamphetamine. It is packaged in blue or white glassine wax-type bags. It is important to note that xylazine is not an opioid, therefore Narcan (an opioid overdose reversal medication) will not be as effective in overdoses containing xylazine.
In response to increasing overdose deaths, the Division of Public Health (DPH) has increased its messaging around fentanyl including targeting messaging to recreational drug users such as youth through its fentanyl campaign. Additionally, DPH has detailed information about fentanyl on whatisfentanyl.com. Fentanyl test strips and Narcan are available through HelpisHereDE.com. According to data from the Division of Forensic Science, a majority of people who have died from an accidental overdose had multiple drugs in their systems. No drug that is not prescribed by a medical doctor is safe. The State of Delaware is continually monitoring surrounding states and improving internal surveillance to report to the public which substances are being identified.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction in Delaware, call the DHSS 24/7 Crisis Hotline to be connected to treatment and recovery options. In New Castle County, call 1-800-652-2929. Or in Kent and Sussex counties, call 1-800-345-6785. For free 24/7 counseling, coaching, and support, as well as links to mental health, addiction, and crisis services call the Delaware Hope Line at 1-833-9-HOPEDE. To search for treatment and recovery services in Delaware or nearby states, visit HelpIsHereDE.com. if youth are struggling with their mental health or substance use disorder, there are resources available on HelpIsHereDE.com for immediate treatment in person, by phone or text, or online. Crisis intervention services for children under 18 are available 24/7 for parents and caregivers at 800-969-4357 or by texting DE to 741-741.