Opioid Overdose: A Growing Crisis Throughout Connecticut

More than 2,200 people have died in Connecticut from opioid overdoses in the past 11 years—an average of more than one every other day—according to a survey of state medical records by the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH). The study results show that even in an affluent state like Connecticut, death from opioid overdose is a widespread problem that is not limited to inner cities.

Scrutiny of records at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner(OCME)found that only 22 of Connecticut’s 169 towns did not have a reported overdose death during this period and that there was a surprisingly high prevalence of overdose deaths in parts of Litchfield, Middlesex, and Windham counties, as well as in the state’s major urban centers and their surrounding communities.

In addition, the study found that:

  • Sixty-one percent of the overdoses involved heroin; the remaining cases involved prescription opioid analgesics such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and methadone, or a lethal combination of the opioids.
  • Most of the deaths were among people 35-44 years old.
  • There was an increasing trend of overdoses in older individuals, including some in their 50s and 60s.

“These data confirm the profound impact that drug misuse has on residents of almost all parts of Connecticut and remind us how important it is to implement effective prevention and treatment programs” said Paul D. Cleary, YSPH dean and director of the Yale Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS.

Mortality from overdoses of heroin and opioid analgesics have become the second leading cause of death among adults aged 20-55 in the United States. The data from Connecticut appear to be consistent with the national trend that, according to Centers for Disease Control estimates, will soon result in drug overdoses surpassing automobile accidents as the leading cause of accidental death among adults.

Robert Heimer, Ph.D., a professor in the division of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases and the study’s lead investigator, said, “The findings illustrate the need for educational programs and active intervention to prevent and respond to opioid overdoses. This includes training people who abuse opioids in overdose prevention and response, as well as expanding evidence-based drug treatment to assist opioid abusers in reducing their risk of overdose.”

Heimer was joined in the analysis by Drs. Lauretta E. Grau, Russell Barbour and Traci C. Green, who recently completed her doctoral studies at Yale and has an appointment as assistant professor at Brown Medical School.