Health Care

61 Vermonters died of opioid overdose in the first 4 months of 2022

Fifteen Vermonters fatally overdosed on opioids in April, bringing the year’s total to 61, according to the latest data from the state health department.

The death toll dipped in February and March, but then rose in April — fluctuations that public health officials expect to normally occur from month to month. 

The tally for the first four months of the year is lower than the 67 deaths logged in the same period for 2021 — a year in which a record-setting 215 Vermonters fatally overdosed. But it’s 22% higher than the 50 deaths recorded in the same period in 2020, state data shows.

As has been the case in Vermont since 2016, the majority of fatal opioid overdoses in April involved the powerful pain medication fentanyl. The synthetic drug figured in all 15 deaths that month; heroin factored in two of those deaths, as did prescription opioids excluding fentanyl. 

Public health experts and law enforcement officers have said fentanyl is not only relatively inexpensive, but it’s also widely available. Those factors have led illicit drug manufacturers to mix it with other substances — with or without users’ knowledge.

Most opioid deaths involve multiple substances, according to the health department. Some 83% of the cases last year involved two or more substances.

Chittenden County has recorded the most resident deaths so far this year in Vermont, with 15 fatalities. Windham County has had seven and Bennington County has had six.

When population is taken into account, Orleans County has the highest death rate, at 18.5 deaths per 100,000 residents. Next is Bennington County with a rate of 16.9, then Windham County with 16.6.

The health department’s mitigation efforts include working with local partners such as recovery centers to distribute “harm reduction packs,” which include Narcan, a brand of opioid overdose antidote, and fentanyl test strips. These test strips can tell users if the drug they have on hand contains fentanyl.
The monthly opioid fatality numbers could change once outstanding death certificates are completed. The total overdose deaths last year, for instance, has been revised to 215 from the original count of 210.

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Tiffany Tan

About Tiffany

Tiffany Tan is VTDigger's Southern Vermont reporter. Before joining VTDigger, she covered cops and courts for the Bennington Banner from 2018 to 2021. Prior to that, Tiffany worked for the Rapid City Journal in South Dakota and spent more than 10 years working for newspapers and television stations in Manila, Singapore and Beijing.

Email: [email protected]

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