By Bob Katzen

According to the Department of Public Health (DPH), there were a total of 2,033 confirmed or suspected opioid overdoses in Massachusetts 2018, the last full year recorded. The DPH said fentanyl was present in 89 percent of the 2018 deaths where a toxicology screen took place.

In the fourth quarter of 2018, in deaths where a toxicology screen took place, the percentages of various substances found in the screen include: heroin or likely heroin — 32 percent; cocaine — 39 percent; and benzodiazepines — 40 percent.

“The presence of amphetamines has been increasing since 2017 to approximately 9 percent of opioid-related overdose deaths in the fourth quarter of 2018,” according the DPH’s study. “Since 2014, the rate of heroin or likely heroin present in opioid-related overdose deaths has been decreasing while the presence of fentanyl and cocaine is still trending upward. The presence of prescription drugs in overdose cases decreased from 2014 through 2016 and has remained stable since then.”

“While we remain encouraged that opioid-related overdose deaths have declined over the last two years, the epidemic continues to present very real challenges across Massachusetts that are made worse by the presence of fentanyl, cocaine and amphetamines,” Gov. Baker said in a statement.

Opioids, also known as Opioid Painkillers are medicines, prescribed by doctors to treat pain which cannot be treated by other, weaker forms of painkillers – such as Ibuprofen & paracetamol. These opioid painkillers work by affecting the opioid receptors in both the brain and the nervous system – which limits and reduces the way our bodies feel pain, increasing our tolerance for pain, whilst reducing our own physical reaction to pain.

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