Alaska opioid deaths increased by 77 percent in last decade, report says

The rate of Alaskans who died from opioid overdoses increased 77 percent over the last decade, with the highest overall rate of deaths reported in the last year, according to a report issued this week by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

The Health Impacts of Opioid Misuse in Alaska report found that 623 people died from opioid overdoses between 2010 and 2017, with a 661 total opioid-related deaths.

The highest rate of opioid-related death was reported in 2017 — with 108 total deaths and 100 overdose deaths. In 2010, 55 people died from opioid overdoses.

Opioids, which dampen pain receptors and increase pleasure by releasing dopamine into the body, were involved in more than 42,000 U.S. deaths in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those deaths, 40 percent involved a prescription drug, the CDC reports.

Released Wednesday, the DHSS report looked the use of heroin, natural or semi-synthetic opioids — such as morphine, codeine, hydromorphone, oxycodone and hydrocone — and synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, carfentanil, tramadol, propoxyphene and mepederine. Methadone was included in its own category.

While overall rates of death from opioid overdose increased significantly between 2010 and 2017, rates per drug category varied.

Natural and synthetic opioid overdose death rates increased 38 percent during that eight-year period. Between 2011 and 2016, heroin overdose death rates, which were too small to be reliably reported in 2010, increased four fold — from 1.4 to 6.5 per 100,000 people. In 2017, however, heroin overdose rates decreased by 25 percent. Inversely, synthetic opioid overdose deaths increased from 2016 to 2017 by three fold, rising from 1.1 per 100,000 people in 2016 to 4.9 in 2017.

Geographically, the Anchorage Region showed the highest rates of opioid overdose death, rising from 12.5 people per 100,000 in 2010 to 20.4 people in 2017. The Gulf Coast Region, made up of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, Kodiak Island Borough and Valdez-Cordova Census Area, showed a decrease in the rates of opioid overdose deaths between 2010 and 2017 — from 11.4 percent to 10 percent. Overall, however, the Gulf Coast region came in third in total overdose deaths between that period, with 60 people dying from overdose. In Anchorage, 211 people died; 61 died in the Mat-Su Region.

Medical care for opioid-related issues also increased in recent years. Between 2016 and 2017, the rate of opioid-related emergency discharges increased 22 percent. Opioid-related hospitalizations rates by region were highest in the Gulf Coast, followed by Anchorage, Mat-Su and Northern regions.

In 2016-2017, total inpatient charges for opioid-related hospitalizations was more than $23 million. The median charge for opioid-related inpatient hospitalizations was $36,228.

Reach Erin Thompson at ethompson@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Signs direct voters at the Kenai No. 3 precinct on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion file)
Signs direct voters at the Kenai No. 3 precinct for Election Day on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Local candidates report support from state PACs

Labor unions and the National Education Association are among the groups putting money into Kenai Peninsula state election races

Signs and examples on the recycling super sack at the Cook Inletkeeper Community Action Studio show which plastics are desired as part of the project in Soldotna, Alaska, on Aug. 11, 2022. Plastics from types 1, 2, 4 and 5 can be deposited.(Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Local nonprofit accepting plastics for synthetic lumber project

The super sack receptacles can be found on either side of Soldotna

This July 28, 2022, photo shows drag queen Dela Rosa performing in a mock election at Cafecito Bonito in Anchorage, Alaska, where people ranked the performances by drag performers. Several organizations are using different methods to teach Alaskans about ranked choice voting, which will be used in the upcoming special U.S. House election. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Groups get creative to help Alaska voters with ranked voting

Organizations have gotten creative in trying to help voters understand how to cast their ballot, as the mock election featuring drag performers shows

A school bus outside of Kenai Central High School advertises driver positions on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Staff shortage, gas prices change school bus routes

The changes do not apply to the district’s special education students

The cast of “Tarzan” rides the Triumvirate Theatre float during the Independence Day parade in downtown Kenai, Alaska on Monday, July 4, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
The show goes on as Triumvirate seeks funding for new theater

The troupe has staged shows and events and is looking to debut a documentary as it raise funds for new playhouse

Aaron Surma, the executive director for National Alliance on Mental Illness Juneau and the Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition, leads a safety plan workshop Tuesday night hosted by NAMI and the Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition. The workshop was a collaborative brainstorming session with Juneau residents about how to create a safety plan that people can use to help someone who is experiencing a mental health or suicide crisis. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Study shows a rise in anxiety and depression among children in Alaska

Increase may indicate growing openness to discussing mental health, according to experts

Alaska Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer addresses election information and misinformation during a press conference on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022. (Screenshot)
With a week to go, officials work to clear up election confusion

Officials provided updated ballot statistics, fielded questions from reporters and clarified misconceptions about the current election cycle

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
State reports 21 new COVID deaths; cases down from last week

20 of the reported deaths took place from May to July

A closeup of one of the marijuana plants at Greatland Ganja in Kasilof, Alaska, as seen on March 19, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly streamlines process for marijuana establishment license applications

License applications will now go straight to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly for consideration

Most Read