Opioid-related deaths in Mass. continue to climb

BOSTON (AP) — The number of opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts continues to climb, fueled by the use of fentanyl, a synthetic and highly potent opiate often mixed with heroin.

That’s the conclusion of new statistics released Monday by the state Department of Public Health.

There were nearly 1,400 unintentional, opioid-related deaths in 2015 — a seven percent increase from 2014.

As recently as 2012, there were fewer than 700 opioid-related deaths in the state.

State health officials said that for the first time the data includes information about fentanyl.

Officials said more than half of last year’s confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths with a toxicology screen had a positive screen for fentanyl.

Estimates for the first three months of 2016 suggest that the opioid death rate is comparable to the first quarter of 2015.

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