Counting the dead: the opioid problem in charts

ALBANY COUNTY — In December, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that, after nearly a decade of ever-increasing opioid-related overdose deaths in New York State, there was a near 16-percent drop in the number of opioid-related deaths outside of New York City, from 2,170 in 2017 to 1,824 in 2018, according to preliminary data from the state’s Department of Health. 

In Albany County during that same period, according to New York State, the number of opioid-related overdose deaths decreased by one, from 43 in 2017 to 42 in 2018, a decrease of 2.3 percent.

 

 

One way to read the 2018 state data, said Patricia Strach, the interim executive director of the Rockefeller Institute, is that things are getting better and people are not dying at rates they once were, but the flipside is: “We are looking at a single data point,” she told The Enterprise.

Strach is the principal investigator for the Rockefeller Institute’s Stories from Sullivan project, which provides research and analysis on the nation’s opioid problem. 

So, Strach said, 2018 could either be an aberration or the start of a downward trend — it’s far too early to tell. 

“The second thing,” Strach said, is that the increase in the number of drug- and opioid-related overdose deaths has been “unparalleled.” Over roughly the past two decades, she said, the number of drug-related overdose deaths more than quadrupled. 

The number of drug-overdose deaths in the United States went from about 17,000 in 1999 (about 8,000 were opioid-related), hit an all-time high in 2017 with an estimated 72,000 overdose deaths (about 47,600 were opioid-related), and has been slowly trending downward since, according to provisional drug-overdose death counts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Across New York State, the number of opioid-related overdose deaths went from 767 in 2003 to 3,254 in 2017.

Albany County has weathered the opioid epidemic about as well any of New York’s other 61 counties. 

The number of county residents who died of an opioid-related overdose went from four in 2003 to 42 in 2018. Between 2003 and 2018, according to data from the state’s Department of Health, 318 Albany County residents died of an opioid-related overdose, the 16th highest number of overdose deaths among the state’s 62 counties. Albany is the 14th most populous county based on average population over the same time period.

 

 

 

 

 

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