Overdose deaths reach 7-year peak

The number of opioid drug overdose deaths this year now equals the most that have died in any year since 2011 with three months remaining in 2017, according to the Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition.

In a press release Friday, the coalition stated that there have been 11 overdoses, four of them resulting in deaths, since Sept. 20, the release states.

The recent overdose deaths bring the total number in the region this year to 33. That is the highest number of overdoses the region has seen since 2014, when there were also 33 opioid overdose deaths, according to figures from the coalition.

The four recent deaths mark a sudden increase, following a  recent lull in fatalities. Lauren Cummings, executive director of the coalition, recently reported that there were no overdoses in the month of August.

But Cummings said during a conference last week that she didn’t expect the August trend to continue. As of the conference, the coalition projected that there would be 44 overdose deaths by the end of the year.

The coalition, in its press release, stated  “the likeliness of heroin laced with fentanyl,”  referring to a particularly potent synthetic opioid, as a factor in the recent spike in deaths.

The release also stated that first responders have administered Narcan 145 times so far this year. Narcan is the brand name of naloxone, a drug that is designed to prevent opioid overdoses.