OHA report reveals 2021 saw increases in overdose deaths and ways to help those at risk
A new report from the Oregon Health Authority shows opioid overdoses and related deaths went up in 2021. The report also notes some trends that present opportunities for intervention with people at risk of overdose.
The OHA report finds methamphetamines and the synthetic opioid, fentanyl, helped drive an increase in overdoses and deaths last year. Polysubstance overdoses—those involving multiple drugs—also rose and now account for more than half of all fatal overdoses in Oregon.
In addition to the human costs, charges for drug overdose-related hospitalizations reached $170 million and emergency room charges were $50 million.
In terms of intervention, the report explains how interactions with emergency and health care personnel represent opportunities to connect patients to comprehensive treatment and prescribe the overdose reversal medicine, naloxone.
The OHA report describes those at highest risk for unintentional overdose death were American Indians and Alaska Natives, non-Hispanic Blacks and males. At lowest risk were people of Hispanic ethnicity and non-Hispanic Asians and Pacific Islanders.
OHA has developed the following guidance for people who use drugs:
- Unless a pharmacist directly hands you a prescription pill, assume it is counterfeit and contains fentanyl.
- Assume any pills obtained from social media, the internet or a friend are counterfeit and contain fentanyl.
- If you are using pills, don’t use alone and always have naloxone on hand and visible.
- Test your drugs with fentanyl test strips before you use them. Fentanyl test strips can often be accessed at local harm-reduction sites.
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