Illinois researcher: Most opioid-related overdose deaths in state caused by heroin use

A researcher from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) says unlike other states, most overdoses and opioid-related deaths in Illinois are caused by heroin use. James Swartz says it is also often in combination of potent synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and carfentanyl. 

“In states such as Tennessee or Ohio, it’s been more predominantly a problem of prescription opioids,” Swartz says. “But looking at the data in Illinois, it appears to be increasingly heroin/fentanyl.” 

The UIC researcher is working with the Illinois Department of Human Services to gain a better understanding of the opioid crisis in Illinois. The goal is to reduce deaths from overdoses. 

“Illinois Prevent Prescription Drug/Opioid Overdose Deaths” is one statewide project that is helping address the opioid crisis right now.  This project has helped increase the availability of naloxone reversal kits and helped trained people to use them in several counties where opioid overdoses have been high. The counties include Cook, DuPage, Lake, Madison, St. Clair, and Will. 

Swartz’s research also comes as Illinois undertakes its Opioid Action Plan, developed last year in an effort to comprehensively address Illinois’ opioid epidemic. The Opioid Action Plan focuses on prevention, treatment and recovery, and response. 

The state has also recently applied to the federal government, seeking to have the Affordable Care Act expand its coverage of opioid treatment and addiction for Illinois consumers who buy health insurance through the exchange. 

Opioid overdoses have killed about 11,000 people since 2008 in Illinois. In 2016, more than 1,800 people died of overdoses – twice the amount of fatal car accidents.

Chapin Rose

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