Hartford Courant News –
Overdoses with the animal tranquilizer xylazine continued to be a big problem. The number of fatal overdoses that included combinations of xylazine and fentanyl doubled from 70 deaths in 2019, when the drug first surfaced locally as a mixer with fentanyl, to 140 deaths last year.
The state saw a 13% increase in fatal drug overdoses in 2020, with most deaths occurring from April to July, when the state was going through the first round of the pandemic.
There were 1,359 fatal overdoses in 2020, with 78 cases still under investigation, according to state Department of Public Health data. In 2019, there were 1,200 deaths.
The largest monthly increase in fatal overdoses was April, when the state was in the throes of the COVID pandemic. Gov. Ned Lamont had ordered a lockdown of the state, closing all restaurants and requesting that people stay in their homes.
There were 133 drug overdoses reported in April 2020, compared to 86 in 2019 — a 35% increase in that month alone.
But xylazine isn’t alone — there are a number of substances that emerged in 2020 as fatal compliments to fentanyl.
There also was a major increase in the use of para-fluorofentanyl, a fentanyl analog, which was found in 12 deaths in 2020, 10 of which were in December alone.
The state had only ever had one seen para-fluorofentanyl overdose death previously, in 2018.
The death rates among whites and Hispanics increased slightly.
The county with the highest drug overdose mortality rate was New Haven county, with about 44 deaths per 100,000. Several other counties — Hartford, Litchfield, Middlesex and New London — were close behind, each with around 39 deaths per 100,000.
The only country where the overdose death rate went down was Windham County, which saw a decrease from 39 to 34 deaths per 100,000 in 2020.
More people between the ages of 35-44 died from overdoses than any other age group, with an 11% increase in 2020. The death rate jumped from 75 per 100,000 to 86 per 100,000 in that age group, making it by far the group most impacted.
The second-largest increase was in the age group of 55-64, which saw a 9% increase in fatal overdoses.