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Title: Opioid-Associated Deaths in South Carolina, 2013–2016: A Retrospective Review
Author(s): Butler Daniel C.Batalis Nicholas I.
Citation: Acad Forensic Pathol. 2017 Nov; 7(4):640-648.
Type: Original Article
Keywords: Forensic pathology Heroin Fentanyl Fentanyl analogs Opioids
Abstract: IntroductionRising rates of opioid abuse in the United States have generated an overdose epidemic. Particularly in the last few years, many offices across the country have seen a shift from prescription opioid toxicity to heroin, illicitly produced fentanyl, and, more recently, various fentanyl analogs.MethodsA retrospective review was performed to better characterize the incidence of licit opioid, heroin, fentanyl, and fentanyl analog-associated deaths in South Carolina. Three-thousand three-hundred and fifty autopsy records from the Medical University of South Carolina’s forensic pathology division were reviewed to identify cases in which oxycodone, hydrocodone, heroin, fentanyl, and/or fentanyl analogs were detected.ResultsIn 2013, the incidence of both heroin and fentanyl-associated deaths was relatively rare (2.2% and 0.4%, respectively), but increased somewhat steadily throughout the ensuing years. The incidence of fentanyl-associated death increased from 0.4% to 2.4% between 2013 and 2016. A decrease in fentanyl-associated deaths was noted between 2015 and 2016; however, 2016 saw a dramatic increase in fentanyl analogs, likely accounting for this slight dip. Heroin rose from 2.2% to 4.5% between 2013 and 2016. Combined, heroin and fentanyl accounted for 2.6% of autopsy deaths in 2013 and increased to 7.6% in 2016, with more substantial increases in 2014 and 2015. Licit opioid-associated deaths remained relatively stable throughout the study period and, when identified, were almost always polydrug comixtures.DiscussionThese data illustrate general increases in illicit opioid-related deaths. In contrast to larger jurisdictions, particularly in the Midwest and Northeast, heroin continues to contribute most significantly to intoxication deaths, although synthetic fentanyl and fentanyl analog-associated deaths increased dramatically beginning in 2014.
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