I thought that this would be an interesting topic to write about as it lines up nicely with next month's meeting presentation by HIDTA on Fentanyl-laced heroin. In recent months there has been a lot of interest surrounding the quickly escalating heroin epidemic in Massachusetts. I personally have fielded recent requests for heroin overdose data from within my Department, from the Dept. of Public Health, and from the US Attorney General's Office.
This past Monday I attended a meeting in Boston at the US Attorney General's Office to discuss the current state of the issue and what data, if any, is available in order to shed light on the scope of the problem. The meeting was attended by several other major cities including Springfield and Boston PDs, Mass. State Police, the Department of Public Health, Drug Enforcement Administration, the Medical Examiner's Office, and several representatives from the US Attorney General's Office.
Generally speaking, law enforcement recognized similar limitations across the board as far as being able to provide real-time accurate statistics on heroin overdoses. Namely, overdoses are often reported as medical calls, for which reports are generally not taken by police, and when the incident is known to be an overdose, the specific drug involved might or might not be mentioned. Other agencies in attendance reported a variety of other problems that prevented them from having accurate statistics as well.
While I am limited by the data as far as being able to query heroin overdoses specifically, I am able to query incidents reported as overdoses (not to a drug-specific level). I expected to see an upward trend, but what I found amazed me. Here are the highlights:
* Reported Overdose incidents to WPD have increased for the last 7 consecutive years.
* Year to date (7/15/14) there have been 259 reported ODs; should they continue at this rate there will be a projected/forecasted 482 overdoses reported in 2014, which will constitute an 8th consecutive year of increase.
* From 2006 (where there is a natural break in the data with a low of 96 reported ODs) and 2013 (the current height of the recent upward trend) there has been a 366% increase in the number of annually reported overdoses.
* The average year-to-year increase in reported ODs since 2006 is 25.93%. However, it has ranged from as low as 1.48% (change from 2010 to 2011) to as high as 58.28% (the change from 2007 to 2008).