Study: No widespread opioid abuse in Darien
DARIEN — Despite a statewide increase in accidental overdoses in recent years, there seems to be no widespread opioid abuse in Darien according to a study.
The study, conducted by the Darien Health Department and a public health consultant, was presented to the Board of Selectmen at its Sept. 12 meeting. Susannah Lewis, who was hired as the public health consultant, said there was not a lot of town-level information available.
According to the study, accidental overdoses in Connecticut reached a high of 1,038 in 2017, an increase from 495 in 2013.
“One piece of data we looked at, because there isn’t a lot being collected more locally, were hospital encounters with prescription drug abuse,” she said.
In 2016, hospital encounters due to prescription drug abuse were 44 per 10,000 residents for Darien. In New Canaan, the number was almost identical with 41 per 10,000 residents.
In a town like Stamford, the number was higher, with 113 per 10,000 residents having hospital encounters due to prescription drug abuse, the study showed.
“The other data we had at the more local level was prescription rates,” she said. “We do know with the opioid epidemic that basically 80 percent of people who end up abusing heroin started with prescription pills.”
Looking at prescription rates could help understand what may be happeing in terms of abuse, Lewis said. The rate for Fairfield county was 0.38 prescriptions per person. Fairfield County had the second lowest figure in the state by county.
“For Darien as a town, the rate was 0.26 prescriptions,” Lewis said.
However, the data didn’t help paint a full picture, she said, so they also spoke with the human services department, Darien High School’s resource officer and drug counselor, and two of the three pharmacies in town.
Lewis said there wasn’t much visibility about the level of opioid abuse going on in Darien. Due to opioid abuse being a stigmatized issue, it is possible higher levels exist in town but are not publicized.
“We’re dealing with a population that has the means and resources to keep it private, relatively so, if they want to,” Lewis said.
David Knauf, director of the health department, said they previously lobbied the state for legislation that would allow direct reporting of overdoses and make identifying information available to help conduct follow-ups with people who overdosed.
“That initiative was not supported by the state health department and it was not adopted,” he said.
Knauf said there were communities with a similar size to Darien that reported multiple deaths associated with overdoses, according to the medical examineer.
“Fortunately, I can say that we haven’t had any fatalities associated with drug overdoses here for at least two years,” he said. “That’s the good news here.”