NECN INVESTIGATES: Massachusetts Opioid-Related Overdose Deaths on the Rise

The total number of deaths rose from 526 in 2010 to 1,379 in 2015

More people are dying from opioid-related overdoses than ever before in Massachusetts. This as the state spends millions to fight the epidemic devastating cities and towns across the state.

Opioid deaths are up 162 percent over the past five years, according to new data released Monday by state health officials. Opioid overdose deaths rose from 1,282 in 2014 to 1,379 in 2015, an increase of nearly 8 percent.

When you look at the figures over a five year period, the total number of deaths rose from 526 in 2010 to 1,379 in 2015, or 162 percent. That doesn't even take into account estimated opioid deaths that have not yet been finalized, which would bring the 2015 total to 1,526, which would represent a 190 percent increase over the 5-year span.

Estimates for the first three months of 2016 suggest that the opioid death rate is comparable to the first quarter of 2015.

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The new data released Monday also includes information about fentanyl and its relationship to opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts. Over 50 percent of 2015's confirmed opioid deaths where a toxicology screen was done had a positive screen for fentanyl.

"Since taking office, we have been committed to combatting the opioid epidemic and we're proud to have worked with the legislature to enact landmark legislation addressing treatment, education and prevention around substance misuse," Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement. "As we continue the implementation of the Opioid Working Group's recommendations, enhancing the data and ability to analyze it for communities, policy makers and medical providers is a key component and tool in continuing to fight this crisis."

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In June of 2015, the Governor's Opioid Working Group released 65 recommendations and an action plan aimed at combatting the opioid epidemic.

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