A Naloxone (aka Narcan) kit
A Naloxone (aka Narcan) kit distributed to combat the opioid crisis. Credit: New2me86 / Shutterstock

The number of Connecticut residents that died of accidental drug intoxication increased by 150 people from 2020 to 2021. 

According to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, the percentage of accidental drug intoxication deaths that involved an opioid was 93%, and the percentage that included fentanyl was 86%. Fentanyl is involved with the most amount of deaths out of any other opioid, and the use of fentanyl and cocaine together is the most deadly combination. Heroin and fentanyl is another highly used combination, resulting in the second highest number of accidental deaths.

The Drug Enforcement Administration says that fentanyl is up to 100 times stronger than morphine, and was originally developed as a pain management treatment for cancer patients, applied in a patch to the skin. The website also says that fentanyl is added to heroin or cocaine to increase their potency, or be disguised as highly potent heroin or cocaine.

“Many users believe that they are purchasing heroin and actually don’t know that they are purchasing fentanyl – which often results in overdose deaths.” the site said.

Preliminary data for 2022 shows that there have already been 166 overdose deaths in 2022 — 144 of which involved fentanyl or a fentanyl analog, accounting for about 87 percent.

The advocacy research center at the American Medical Association also said that fentanyl use was on the rise nationwide. The issue brief said that one prevailing theme is the fact that illicit fentanyl, in combination with other drugs, is the driving factor of this epidemic. 

“There is an urgent need for policymakers’ action to increase access to evidence-based care for substance use disorders, pain and harm reduction measures” the release said.

Connecticut lawmakers are taking steps to address this issue. Two pieces of legislation are being talked about this session. 

The first piece of legislation proposes funding for schools, youth agencies, and local health districts to get the resources they need to treat drug overdoses. The bill would also require that all entities train staff using a program that teaches them how to recognize drug use, intervene, and refer them to the best facility for treatment. The initiative will be completely funded for a two-year period and would not be mandated in schools.

“It’s important that we not only supply our schools and youth organizations with the tools to treat drug overdoses, but with the proposer staffing and training to recognize drug use in its early stages and support young people before things worsen.” Rep. Liz Linehan said in a press release.

A state Education Department survey released last month found 60% of school districts in Connecticut have Naloxone, the opioid reversal drug, in at least one school building while 40% don’t have it at all.

State Education Department survey

The second piece of legislation, H.B. 5155, would require safe storage information be provided with every opioid and THC prescription. The release said that The Department of Consumer Protections, Department of Public Health and the Department of Children and Families would be responsible for supplying this information and creating the informative handout.

There are solutions for recovery in Connecticut that include hotlines, virtual and in-person meetings, and one-on-one support. The Connecticut Addiction Recovery Center, or CCAR, provides resources for those who are searching for a strategy to recover.