Atlantic County sees huge increase in drug-related deaths

Drug-related deaths have seen a 64 percent increase so far this year after nearly doubling last year, preliminary numbers show.
Because toxicology tests can take months to come back, the official results for last year are not yet available. But so far, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office has confirmed 140 overdose deaths last year. There were 77 in 2014, according to the office.
Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner attributed some of the increase to the new policies of the office, which now investigates all deaths potentially related to drug overdoses.
But he did not downplay the troubling increase that has seen at least 33 drug-related deaths in the county this year, compared to 19 by the same time this year.
“The fact that we here in Atlantic County are in the middle of a significant public health crisis cannot be overstated,” Tyner told BreakingAC. “The significant increase in reported drug-related deaths are as a result of several factors.”
Cooperation with local police departments, hospitals and the State Medical Examiner’s Office is helping get more accurate causes of death, he said.
“Additionally, we are seeing a significant influx in the use of fentanyl as a cutting agent of heroin, or in some instances, being used in its purest form,” Tyner said.
He added that, because fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, naloxone — commonly known as Narcan — cannot combat its effects.
State numbers show just how deadly fentanyl has become.
Atlantic County saw 13 fentanyl-related deaths in the three years from 2012 to 2014. In 2015, there were 23.
Statewide, there were 42 deaths attributed to fentanyl in 2012. Two years later, there were 142. In 2015, that number jumped to 417.