St. Louis Area Opioid Deaths Reach New High

NCADA report said number of local deaths would have been even higher if not for recent rise in use of Narcan

Brett Blume
June 20, 2018 - 3:10 pm
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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - For the fourth consecutive year, the St. Louis region has set a new record for opioid overdose deaths.

"The preliminary numbers show that 756 people passed in 2017," according to Brandon Costerison, public awareness specialist with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (NCADA). "But that data is not yet final, we anticipate seeing those numbers continue to rise."

The 2017 figure topped the previous record of 712 set in 2016.

Costerison pointed out that forms of fentanyl, a lethal synthetic opioid, are causing a majority of the deaths -- in fact, fentanyl was present in 90 percent of fatal ODs in St. Louis city and county.

"Most of the fentanyl that we're seeing is illicitly manufactured in China," he said. "It's not something that's being diverted from medicine cabinets or pharmacies."

(KMOX/Brett Blume)

The NCADA report said it's clear that the number of local deaths would have been even higher were it not for a recent rise in the use of Narcan, or naloxone, to bring overdose victims back from the brink.

And it's not just police officers and EMTs who can supply Narcan.

"There was a law passed in 2016 that allows any person to go to the pharmacy in Missouri and purchase Naloxone without a prescription," Costerison explained. "Given the prevalence of fentanyl in the St. Louis region, it is essential that those who are at risk of witnessing or experiencing an overdose have this life-saving medication on hand. We know that civilian and emergency responder access to naloxone is saving lives."

The St. Louis region, which takes in the city and county, as well as Jefferson, Franklin, St. Charles, Lincoln and Warren counties in Missouri, and Madison and St. Clair counties in Illinois, has lost over 4,500 people to the opioid epidemic since 2007.