Cimaglio said that overdoses on prescription drugs such as oxycodone fell in 2016, continuing a recent trend. But heroin, which has widely varying levels of potency, and fentanyl, an opiate that can be 50 times as potent as heroin, are killing more people than ever before.
"Prescription drugs are more predictable. We're seeing more heroin and more illicit fentanyl, and that's contributing to more overdoses," Cimaglio said in an interview.
The record comes even though the state has spent three years focused on curbing the opiate problem. The Health Department has expanded and reorganized drug treatment programs and distributed thousands of doses of the overdose-reversing drug Narcan, which is carried by most first responders and given to people without a prescription. Narcan was used to attempt to reverse 241 overdoses in the first six months of 2016.