Closer look: Overdose rates continue to rise

Published 8:53 am Saturday, July 28, 2018

Drug overdoses continue to increase across Kentucky and in Clark County, according to a report issued by the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy this week.

“Over the past decade, the number of Kentuckians who die from drug overdoses has steadily climbed to more than 1,500 this year, exacting a devastating toll on families, communities, social services and economic growth,” the 2017 Overdose Fatality Report states. The annual report examines drug overdose deaths in all counties and tracks the rates of deaths over time.

The KODCP began tracking the overdose fatalities following the passing of House Bill 1 from the 2012 special session, according to the report.

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The report is compiled using data from the Kentucky Medical Examiner’s Office, the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center and the Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics.

Deaths noted represent both intentional and unintentional overdoses by illicit or prescription drugs, according to the report.

According to the report, 17 Clark County residents died by drug overdose in 2017. The rate was 47.2 per 100,000 residents. The 2016 report states six overdoses occurred in Clark County and nine Clark County residents died by overdose that year.

The number of deaths in Clark County has varied over the years, with the highest being 18 deaths counted in 2012 and the lowest being eight in 2014.

In surrounding counties, deaths in 2017 were 123 from Fayette County, 11 from Estill County, 43 from Madison County, 15 from Montgomery County and less than five from Powell County.

There were 1,565 overdose deaths reported to the Office of Vital Statistics of Kentucky residents, regardless of where the death occurred, and non-residents who died in Kentucky. Of those, 1,468 were Kentucky residents. That’s compared to 1,404 overdose deaths counted in the 2016 report. Within the 1,565 overdose deaths, toxicology was available for 1,468.

Autopsies and toxicology reports from coroners show fentanyl was involved in 763 Kentucky resident overdose deaths. That accounts for 52 percent of all deaths, up from 47 percent in 2016. The report does not show a breakdown of toxicology reports for counties.

Other highlights

A review of cases autopsied by the Kentucky Medical Examiner’s Office and toxicology reports submitted by coroners indicates that in 2017:

— People ages 35 to 44 were the largest demographic in overdose deaths with 353 reported in 2017. Reported deaths in other age ranges were five for less than 1-year-old, two for ages 5 to 14, 73 for ages 15-24, 295 for ages 25 to 34, 291 for ages 45 to 54, 143 for ages 55 to 64, 19 for ages 65 to 74 and two for ages 85 to 84.

— Autopsies and toxicology reports from coroners show approximately 22 percent of overdose deaths involved the use of heroin in 2017, down from 34 percent in 2016.

— Fentanyl was involved in 763 Kentucky resident overdose deaths. That accounts for 52 percent of all deaths, up from 47 percent in 2016.

— Jefferson County had the most overdose deaths of any county with 426, up from 364 in the 2016 report.

— The largest increase in overdose fatalities occurred in Jefferson County, where deaths increased by 62, from 364 deaths in 2016. Other counties with significant increases include Fayette County by 49, Campbell County by 26, and Kenton County by 17.

  The largest decrease occurred in Madison County, which had nine fewer fatalities in 2017 compared to the previous year. Other counties with significant declines include Bell County, which declined by 10; and Knox County, which declined by eight. Breathitt and Scott Counties declined by six.

— Morphine was detected in 627 cases and Monoacetylmorphine (heroin) in 327.

— Alprazolam was detected in approximately 36 percent of cases; gabapentin, 31percent; methamphetamine, 29 percent (a 57 percent increase); oxycodone, 14 percent (a 6 percent decline); hydrocodone, 14 percent (a 2 percent decline).