As the nation grapples with an opioid overdose epidemic, a journal article shows while Travis County is not immune from the effects, fewer people in the area are dying because of those drugs compared to the rest of the nation.
Austin Public Health analyzed data from 2006 to 2016. In that time, a total of 1,398 people died because of an overdose in Travis County and 590 of those had opioids in their system at the time.
However, in Travis County, opioids made up a lower percentage of drug overdose deaths (42.2 percent versus 57.6 percent) and a lower mortality rate (4.8 versus 8.0 out of 100,000) compared to the United States as a whole.
While heroin and prescription opioids were linked to the most overdose deaths, the study showed the rate of opioid prescriptions in Travis County is less than that of the nation and Texas as a whole as well, so “prescription opioids may not play as strong of a role in opioid overdose deaths in Travis County as they do in other areas of the country,” according to the journal article. Still, it recommended improving prescription drug monitoring to improve patient safety and prevent abuse.
The article said there has been an upward trend of overdose deaths overall in Travis County, as well as an increase in opioid overdose deaths specifically — but that is partially because of underreporting of overdose deaths in previous years.
The article-writers recommended expanding access to substance abuse treatment as well as access to Naloxone, which can be used to reverse overdoses. A majority of people who died because of opioid overdose did so unintentionally. Only 7 percent were because of suicide.