A new report from the state’s Division of Public Health offers a bleak outlook of Alaska’s continued struggle with opioid addiction.
Researchers looked at data related to abuse of prescription painkillers, as well as heroin and the synthetic opioid Fentanyl. The number of fatal overdoses is up for the fifth year in a row. According to preliminary data, 107 Alaskans died from opioid overdoses last year.
Though the state overall is below the national average for fatal overdoses, the rates vary by region, with the highest concentration in Anchorage — at 20.4 per 100,000 people in 2017.
One bright spot in the findings is that the rate of opioids dispensed to Medicaid patients has decreased, which the report’s authors suggest could indicate “more judicious” prescribing practices among healthcare providers. Many people’s first exposure to powerful narcotics are through legally prescribed painkillers that have a high risk of causing dependence.
There’s also evidence that more of the overdose-reducing medication naloxone is reaching drug-users, curbing the number of fatal overdoses.