RI Health Officials Report Spike in Non-Fatal Drug Overdoses

May 30, 2018

Rhode Island health officials say hospital emergency rooms are seeing a spike in the number of patients being treated for drug overdoses.

Forty-four patients were treated for drug overdoses during the week of May 21-27, compared with an average of 29 per week so far in 2018, the health department said in a statement. Thats an increase of more than 50 percent. None of these overdoses were fatal.

The spike appears to be linked to an increase in illicit drugs laced with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine, the health department’s James V. McDonald said. That’s based on laboratory tests and reports from emergency rooms, he said.

The overdose reports came from seven hospital emergency rooms and involved patients from around Rhode Island, McDonald said. The patients were all treated with naloxone, known by its brandname Narcan, a medication to reverse an opioid overdose. Patients who overdose on fentanyl often require several doses of naloxone to be revived.

Hospitals in Rhode Island are required to report overdoses to the state health department within 48 hours. As part of the statewide monitoring system, the health department sends  public health advisories to community leaders, first responders and treatment and recovery professionals.

Meanwhile, the number of fatal overdoses during the first two months of 2018 has declined. In January and February, state health officials report the number of fatal overdoses was 17 and 21, respectively, compared with 29 and 26 during January and February of 2017.

Health officials advise anyone who is seeking treatment for addiction to call the state’s 24-hour hotline, 401-942-STOP (7867).