Drug overdose deaths in Virginia

After a spike in deaths during the first half of the year, Virginia officials are projecting a record number of drug overdose fatalities in 2019.

Data released Friday by Virginia’s chief medical examiner shows a big increase in deaths between January and June from overdoses of methamphetamine, heroin and fentanyl, a synthetic prescription painkiller.

As a result, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner expects total drug fatalities in 2019 to approach 1,550 — a 4% jump from the previous year.

Fentanyl, which is more lethal than heroin and cocaine, is often combined with street drugs. “By late 2013 and early 2014, some heroin being sold on the street was actually completely fentanyl unbeknownst to the user,” the office said in its latest quarterly report. “Fentanyl caused or contributed to death in nearly 55% of all fatal overdoses in 2018.”

During the first half of 2019, Fairfax County and the city of Richmond had the most drug deaths in the state — 49. Most of Richmond’s overdoses involved heroin and fentanyl, which is often produced overseas and trafficked into the U.S.

“We saw drug overdoses and drug-related deaths really rise when we started to notice more and more fentanyl in toxicology reports in 2015,” said Capt. Emmett Williams of the Richmond Police Department. “The thing that is causing these overdoses is fentanyl being mixed with drugs like cocaine and heroin.”

Just a pinch of fentanyl can be deadly, Williams said. 

“About 35% of seized drugs in Richmond have trace amounts of fentanyl mixed in with it,” he said.

Authorities say one of the main ways fentanyl enters the U.S. is by street dealers ordering the drug on the internet’s “dark web” and having it delivered through the mail.

“We’re developing technology in package screening to detect fentanyl coming through the post office to combat the issue,” William said. “Fentanyl is also being shipped to Mexico and being trafficked across the border into the U.S. from there.”

In 2012, only 50 drug overdose deaths in Virginia involved fentanyl. That number jumped to 624 in 2016, 770 in 2017 and 813 last year.

Between Jan. 1 and June 30 of this year, the medical examiner said, 441 people died in Virginia from fentanyl overdoses. That compared with 371 such deaths during the first half of 2018.

The medical examiner projects that fentanyl will contribute to 883 deaths in the state in 2019.

Deaths involving heroin are expected to rise from 556 last year to 585 this year. And the medical examiner projects that fatalities involving methamphetamine will increase from 127 in 2018 to 152 this year.

Overall, the number of drug overdose fatalities in the commonwealth has gone from 799 in 2012 to a record high of 1,536 in 2017. The death toll dropped slightly to 1,485 last year. With the recent upswing in drug overdose deaths, the medical examiner’s office projects Virginia will hit a new record of 1,547 in 2019.

Kathrin Hobron, a forensic epidemiologist with the Virginia Department of Health, said a multifaceted approach is needed to address the problem.

Besides putting an emphasis on law enforcement, she said, there should be an emphasis on drug treatment. 

“Other than focusing on opioids or one drug, we should be focusing on the addiction of drugs and helping drug addicts get off drugs,” Hobron said.


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(4) comments


“Virginia officials are projecting a record number of drug overdose fatalities in 2019.“

What do you expect anyway? As a society America has become the antithesis of what would have prevented almost all of this ever evolving much less flourishing like it does today. Open borders, welcome every known 3rd world socialist philosophy with open arms, pit races and classes and religions against each other, embrace and protect the most hideous sexual abnormalities possible, deny God, ignore the Constitution, condemn the President, praise radical extremist organizations like ISIS, tell the people that opioids like cannabis are harmless and not gateway drugs, physically assaulting anyone that disagrees with living this kind of life style and then slap together a bunch of pie charts and graphs embedded into an article that says, “We have a big problem and can't figure out what to do.”

And all the way down through to the end of this grisly epistle of human sadness the two part answers for all the pain, sickness an suffering are 1. Help people get off of drugs and 2. put an emphasis on law enforcement.

That'll do it for sure. And if you look up into the sky this weekend you'll see great big pink flying pigs NASA launched off of Wallops Island too.


This was quite a comment and I’d like to break it down and have a counter-discussion surrounding some of your points.

1) I absolutely do agree with you that our media is toxic and framing stories that indeed do pit races, classes, and religions against each other and it’s unfortunate that people take information from “news” sources at face value. Critical thinking around headlines and articles is a very important but often underutilized skill.

2) Your clear judgment of anyone slightly different from yourself (example: “embrace and protect the most hideous sexual abnormalities possible”) says quite a bit more about yourself and your disdain of others than it does about them. American ideals are founded on embracing differences and celebrating individualism rather than forcing everyone to be identical so it is a shame that you are so quick to judge someone different than yourself without ever actually meeting and knowing them. Doesn't religion teach you that we are not to judge others?

3) “Deny God”…Separation of church and state, anyone? God is not meant to be in our public schools, government, etc. Religion is not the only avenue for a moral compass. If one wishes to participate in organized religion, that is their prerogative and more power to them, but it becomes a significant issue when God and religion are forced upon people and organizations in which they do not belong. Once again, America was formed on the basis of religious freedom. Organized religion does not always a good person make.

4) “Condemn the President”… Every president since the beginning of time has had citizens that disagree with his politics and policies. Every single president. It is my opinion that this particular president deserves some of the condemnation that he receives, but that’s just one person’s opinion and to each their own.

5) Who is praising ISIS aside from a very tiny select amount of people who spend too much time on the internet? Honestly.

6) Cannabis is not an opioid… not sure where that came from, but please do your research on this if you're planning to comment on an article regarding substance use.

7) I agree that we have seen physical assaults on those with different ideals and lifestyles and it is quite unfortunate. America is in a state of high anxiety and, going back to your previous point, the media does not help by pitting others against each other with strategic headlines and video clips. This behavior is not okay from anyone on any side of the fence.

8) Data from the Virginia Medical Examiner’s office tends to be fairly accurate, so I’m sure these pie charts and graphs were not merely “slapped together.” It is important to review and know your data sources.

This is an epidemic and the truth is is that there are people constantly working on the issue all across the state of Virginia. This issue is not black and white. We cannot arrest our way out. The war on drugs has historically been an immense failure. A solution will likely not be found very quickly, and hastily judging an article meant to educate Virginians on the issue does not help the cause.


kc722 reverse logic or socialistic psychology doesn't work with me. Here on this and their sister publications for eight plus years every time I said that I didn't agree with something Obama said or did the left's yard birds immediately went full combat screaming in all capital letters, “You just proved that you are a racist!” No I didn't.

You opened stating that you wanted to have a point counter point discussion didn't bode well with the bulk of your comments. Following an item 1. good guy compliment you proceeded with a litany of surgical strikes intended to chop me into tiny pieces all of which were spiced with your advice on how I should act and behave before and while posting comments anywhere.

Hence we'll do it your way.

Let's briefly discuss God and our Constitution first. America was founded and built upon Judeo Christian faith and principles. Our Constitution specifically states that our government shall never sanction or approve of any specific religion. It does not state or even infer that our government and our religions must be kept forever separated.

What God's Words in the scriptures say (paraphrased) is judge not that you also will be judged. That does not mean that you should not judge anyone period. Put another way God will judge you or I in the same manner that we have judged others. In the beginning God created man in his own image and formed woman from one of that man's ribs. He then gave them dominion over Earth and told them how He expected them to live.

So from that time thousands of years ago we now live in a time when man has decided that he, not God will do the creating thereby abandoning everything God has blessed in favor of adopting and pursuing everything He abhors. God said don't sleep with your own kind. We do it anyway. God said don't mingle with the beasts in the fields we do it anyway.

My understanding of what God expects is the fact that when I stand up and say that any sexual deviation from what God Blessed is an abnormality then I have defended Him with courage and conviction when others with no guts flee and try to hide their cowardice behind His Word.

The liberal mainstream media, New York Times, Washington Post and Democrat Party leadership are the ones that are praising ISIS. Why? They've spent the last three plus ears demonizing every breath President Trump takes. A couples of days ago American soldiers in a secret raid eliminated the leader of ISIS. That was much too large of a bitter pill for them to swallow by complimenting our troops and President Trump.

I should have stated that cannabis is currently being considered as an effective substitute for opioids for alcoholism and pain reduction. Instead of pigeon holing cannabis into a specific category the point I was trying to make is that it is a physiological, mind altering psychoactive drug that entices users with low willpower into using stronger and stronger drugs. Instead of being sold in mom & pop stores or out of vending machines it should be strictly controlled and monitored just like all other addictive drugs are.

How in the world can you say that this article means to educate Virginians when it concludes with nothing but two vague suggestions? Virginians already know the graphics details about destructive powers of drug addictions. Virginians want answers. They want effective action. They want solutions. Articles like this one provide little if any of those things. That is what's not helping the cause. Not my comments.


Democrats don't care about drugs.

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