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Fentanyl a large portion of Delaware's 2016 overdose deaths

Delaware Public Media


Delaware saw an alarming uptick in overdose-related deaths in 2016, and about one-third are fentanyl-related.


And that’s why people like Dave Humes, a board member on Delaware’s atTAck addiction, want to see an increase in education about opioids and access to care.


Humes’ son, Greg, overdosed on heroin five years ago.


“And when he overdosed - the people he was with - they lifted him up, they put him in his car, they drove him to a hospital parking lot and there they just walked away from the car and just left him there,” Humes said.


Greg was found about an hour later, but his father said it was too late - he had died. 


“He was a kind, caring kid, and anybody who ever met him - even if you met him once or twice, they always he had one word to describe him, and that ‘sweet’,” Humes said. “He wasn’t somebody who pushed boundaries and pushed the envelopes. He was really sort of a quiet, shy, person until he got to know somebody.” 


Humes said although any overdose or epidemic is devastating, fentanyl is the worst. In 2016, the First State saw an increase in the amount of overdose deaths, to over 300. Of those deaths, 120 are fentanyl-related.


"It only takes a very small quantity to do far more damage than some of the opiates and heroin do, so it's a very difficult problem to address because it's much easier, I believe, to smuggle it into the country," Humes said.


The number of fentanyl-related deaths is a significant increase from 2015, in which there were just 42 fentanyl-related deaths. Michael Barbieri, the director of Delaware’s Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, said those numbers are "very depressing." Some dealers even disguise fentanyl as heroin, or they put it inside of pills and claim it is OxyContin, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.


“Currently, what we’re trying to do is to work more closely with police departments and emergency rooms so that we can have them connect people who may have been arrested who have a history of drug use, to connect them with recovery coaches to help guide them,” Barbieri said.


Barbieri said he would also like for health officials to make people more aware of issues related to substance abuse.


Meanwhile, Humes said he wants the state to try to end the stigma attached to overdose.


“It’s something that people are ashamed of using it and they do it much more in private with another couple people who maybe also uses themselves,” Humes said.


Delaware prescribes opiates at one of the highest rates in the country, Barbieri said, which is why the state needs to be more aggressive in its outreach efforts. That includes connecting people who have experiences like Humes’ with people in crisis. 

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