State Capitol lawn covered with flags representing an individual who died of a drug overdose Credit: Hugh McQuaid photo

Families who lost loved ones and mental health advocates gathered Wednesday to commemorate National Overdose Awareness Day. The number of Connecticut residents who 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.

“Lethal fentanyl continues to drive the increase in overdose deaths across the country and Naloxone (Narcan) is one of the life-saving tools we have to combat this crisis,” Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS Commissioner Nancy Navarretta said. “DMHAS is on track to reach the goal of distributing more than 45,000 Narcan kits throughout Connecticut, with the hope that meeting and exceeding this goal will significantly reduce opioid overdose fatalities.”

Navarretta also said DMHAS has increased outreach and engagement to individuals who are actively using opioids, as a saved life is a person given another day to find a path to recovery.

DMHAS Commissioner Nancy Navarretta Credit: Hugh McQuaid photo

In 2022 through the end of June there have been 654 accidental overdose deaths in Connecticut. The number related to fentanyl is averaging about 84.6% this year.

And there’s another deadly drug emerging called: xylazine. Xylazine is a veterinary sedative not intended for human use. In Connecticut, in March 2019, xylazine was identified as a novel and emerging adulterant in fatal drug intoxications when combined with fentanyl. It continues to be a problem in 2022. There were 71 xylazine-involved deaths in 2019, 141 in 2020 and 295 in 2021. Xylazine-involved drug overdose deaths continued to be high in 2022, with 30 deaths in January, 24 in February, 40 in March, 40 in April, 36 in May, and 17 in June with an overall total of 190.

“Today, as we remember those we have lost, we celebrate those who are living proof that recovery is possible,” Navarretta said. “It is our collective responsibility to play a role in paving the many pathways of recovery and these steps taken with the support of Governor Lamont are essential to combatting this epidemic.”

To get connected to these resources, visit or call 1-800-563-4086 any time, 24 hours a day.