Dec 22, 2013
06:43 AMThe Connecticut Story
With Torrington in Heroin Death Crisis, a Look at Connecticut's Typical Users, Statistics
The heroin addict who needs help in Connecticut is likely to be white, more suburban and often younger than the one in your mind’s eye, although they come in all sizes, shapes, ages and races.
And odds are, he’s a guy — a guy who may have switched to heroin for economic reasons because it’s a cheaper high, after initially getting hooked on prescription narcotics in the home.
Nevertheless, Connecticut’s 189 deaths from heroin overdose so far this year included 45 women.
A typical Connecticut heroin user also frequently doesn’t know exactly what that stuff he or she is smoking, snorting or injecting is — and it may or may not be heroin, authorities say.
This snapshot of a Connecticut heroin user, to the extent that there is a typical user, emerged from statistics on heroin-related deaths released this past week by the state office of the chief medical examiner and interviews with people on the front lines of treatment and law enforcement.
The Register Citizen of Torrington and the New Haven Register requested statistics in the wake of a run of suspected heroin-related overdose deaths in Torrington, a relatively small city of 35,800 people that so far this year has seen 10 people die of suspected heroin overdoses within its borders.
The most recent Torrington death occurred on Monday. Three of the city’s suspected heroin deaths occurred over a two-day period in November.
That’s more than any city in Connecticut other than Hartford, which as of Thursday had 22, New Haven, which had 15, and Waterbury, which had 11, according to figures from the office of the chief medical examiner. Bridgeport, the state’s largest city, had nine, as did Norwich.
While larger city totals can be inflated because some of the people who die in places like New Haven, Hartford or Waterbury live in smaller towns — and the cities also are where medical facilities often are — results differ only slightly when looking at heroin deaths among residents, rather than simply within municipal borders.
Torrington, with 10 deaths of Torrington residents, has seen more of its residents die of overdoses this year than any city other than Hartford, which had 11.
New Haven and Waterbury each had nine.
New Britain and Norwich each had seven. Danbury, Manchester and Milford each had six deaths. Bridgeport had just 4 — the same as North Haven, Meriden and East Hartford.
It’s not just heroin, but in recent years, “more people are dying from intoxication deaths than are dying from auto accidents,” said Chief Medical Examiner Dr. James R. Gill. That’s been the case since about 2008, he said.
In fact, deaths from drug overdoses now outnumber deaths from motor vehicle accidents in 29 states and Washington, D.C., according to the Trust for America’s Health.
Connecticut has the 13th-lowest drug overdose mortality rate in the United States, with 10.1 per 100,000 people suffering drug overdose fatalities, according to a report the Trust released in October.
The report also found that, in Connecticut, deaths from overdoses — a majority of which were from prescription drugs — increased by 12 percent since 1999, when the rate was 9 per 100,000.
Torrington this year has a rate of death from heroin overdoses of 28 per 100,000 people — nearly triple the state rate and more than five times the 2012 rate of New York City, which had a rate of 5.3 deaths per 100,000 people, according to NYC.gov.
Looking at the heroin landscape in Connecticut — before abuse reaches the point of death — it appears as if use is increasing.