New Jersey Opioid Deaths Surge Even After Prescriptions Decline

(Bloomberg) -- Opioid overdose deaths rose 24 percent in New Jersey last year, even after doctors wrote fewer prescriptions, according to the state medical examiner’s office.

In all, 2,750 painkiller-related deaths were reported in 2017, or about eight a day. Just over half were attributed to fentanyl and its analogues, or drugs engineered to mimic its extreme potency in tiny doses. Heroin-related fatalities dropped to 41 percent of the total, from 61 percent in 2016.

New Jersey opioid prescriptions written and filled peaked at 5.64 million in 2015. Last year the figure was 4.87 million, the “first time in recent memory” that the statistic fell below 5 million, according to a statement from state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.

The state in March 2017 adopted a rule limiting initial opioid prescriptions to five days. Since then, prescriptions have dropped 26 percent. By comparison, from January 2014 to March 2017, prescriptions fell 18 percent.

Counties with the most fatalities were Essex, with 271; Ocean, 253; Camden, 200; Middlesex, 182; and Atlantic, 171.

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