For Immediate Release
Contact: Brandon Costerison
314-962-3456 xt 370 (office)
(St. Louis)– Earlier today, NCADA reported that preliminary numbers indicate a dramatic increase in opioid related overdose deaths here in the St. Louis area. The most recent data show about 545 opioid overdose deaths through October, 2016 which suggests the total for the year will exceed 600. This is nearly a 20% increase over 2015, which, until now, was the worst year on record.
The biggest increases came in Jefferson and Franklin Counties as well as the City of St. Louis. Through the end of October, 200 people died from fatal overdoses in the City, more than a 50% increase from the 131 who died in all of 2015.
“This dramatic increase is terribly concerning,” said NCADA Executive Director Howard Weissman. “We expect that the primary cause is the growing presence of heroin tainted with fentanyl, a powerful and deadly synthetic opioid.”
While the number of fatal overdoses is alarming and continuing evidence of an ongoing public health crisis, there are reasons to be hopeful for our region’s future. In 2016, St. Louis was chosen as a participant in the DEA 360 Strategy, an investment by the federal agency to take an innovative approach that, in addition to enforcement, involves cooperation with drug manufacturers, pharmacies and doctors to reduce diversion, and community outreach through partnerships with local social service agencies.
In addition, several municipalities have passed ordinances that will help prevent opioid misuse and offer protection to those who call for medical assistance in the event of an overdose. In August, naloxone, an overdose reversal medication, became available from pharmacies without a prescription. And in September, the Missouri Opioid-Heroin Overdose Prevention and Education Project, a large, federally funded program was launched. MO-HOPE aims to reduce opioid related deaths through overdose education and naloxone distribution, in addition to increasing prevention and public awareness raising efforts.
“Unfortunately we don’t have a silver bullet,” said Brandon Costerison, Public Awareness Specialist with NCADA. “This requires the efforts of the prevention, medical, law enforcement, treatment and harm reduction communities all working together. We can only hope that decision-makers and funders at the municipal, state, and federal level—as well as corporate and private citizens—continue to invest resources and advocate for reforms so we can save more lives and, better yet, do more to prevent addiction from taking root in the first place.”
NCADA is a community health agency that works to reduce or prevent the harms of alcohol and other drug use through education, intervention and advocacy.