Another spike in Delaware overdose deaths

A used syringe is seen in a disposal container. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

A used syringe is seen in a disposal container. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Eight people died from suspected overdoses in a four day span, prompting Delaware state health officials to issue a new warning. The four day spike doubles the number of overdose deaths in the month of August to 16.

“These deaths have happened in all three counties, to men and women, and to people in their 20s to those in their 50s,” said Dr. Kara Odom Walker, Delaware Health and Social Services secretary. “This horrific toll shows that no one in active use is immune from the risk of death in our state.”

So far this year, there have been 167 suspected overdose deaths in Delaware. Last year, 345 people died from overdoses. That was a 12 percent increase from 2016 when 308 overdose deaths were recorded. About 61 percent of overdose deaths in 2017 involved fentanyl and 40 percent involved heroin. Multiple substances were involved in many overdose deaths.

These numbers would likely be higher were it not for the increase in availability of the overdose-reversing medication naloxone. Police departments and paramedic units throughout the state have expanded use of the medication. IT’s also been made available at pharmacies in the state without a prescription.

Director of the state’s Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Elizabeth Romero urged anyone actively using drugs to seek help from a medical provider or call the state’s 24-hour crisis hotline. “If you continue to use substances, have the overdose-reversing medication naloxone with you,” Romero said. “Our first priority is to reduce harm and save lives. From there, we can connect people to the treatment options that will work best for them.”

In New Castle County, the state’s crisis hotline number is 1-800-652-2929, while Kent and Sussex county residents can call 1-800-345-6785 to connect to addiction treatment services.

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