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Opioid epidemic in Alaska

    The opioid crisis affects everyone in the state in some way. Its victims are of all ages, races and walks of life. The causes are complex and everyone must work together toward a solution.

    Snapshot of Alaska

    • The highest number of opioid-related deaths identified in one year was 108 in 2017 (preliminary data); of which, 100 (93%) were due to overdose.
    • During 2010–2017, with 623 identified opioid overdose deaths, the opioid overdose death rate increased 77% (from 7.7 per 100,000 persons in 2010 to 13.6 in 2017).
    • Synthetic opioids, excluding methadone, caused 37 deaths –37% of all 2017 opioid overdose deaths, with fentanyl contributing to 76% (28 of 37) of those deaths.
    • From 2012–2017, the rate of out-of-hospital naloxone administrations by Emergency Medical Service (EMS) personnel more than doubled, from 8.0 to 17.7 administrations per 1,000 EMS calls in 2012 and 2017, respectively.
    • The rates of opioid-related inpatient hospitalizations were 28.5 per 100,000 persons in 2016 and 26.0 per 100,000 persons in 2017, with total inpatient hospitalization charges exceeding $23 million.

    Progress is being made

    • Despite the escalating rate of opioid overdose deaths and high hospitalization rates, there are several encouraging findings:
    • Preliminary data suggest a possible reduction in the number of deaths during the first six months of 2018—29 Alaskans were known to have died of opioid overdose in the first 6 months of 2018 compared with 44 and 56 during the first and second six months, respectively, of 2017.
    • The percentage of traditional high school students who report using heroin at least once dropped in 2011 and 2013 and has not increased since then.
    • The rate of Medicare Part D patients who received opioid prescriptions has decreased annually since 2015, suggesting more judicious prescribing in Alaska. 
    • Naloxone use is increasing; this is likely due in part to the increased statewide availability of this life-saving overdose reversal medication.

    Learn more about the State of Alaska's focus areas for the response in the Statewide Opioid Action Plan.