Alaska had the highest increase of drug overdose deaths in the nation last year, according to provisional data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday.
Alaska’s rate of drug overdose deaths is usually lower than the national average.
Jessica Filley, with the state’s health department and Office of Substance Misuse and Addiction Prevention, says Alaska is now leading the nation because of the synthetic opioid fentanyl.
“It’s just been a slower process to get up here,” she said. “So I think what we saw happening on the East Coast in 2013 with this surge of fentanyl is just now hitting us up here.”
Alaska’s rate of overdose deaths increased by 75.3% last year, compared to 15% nationally. That’s as national overdose deaths reached an all time high.
The state’s health department recommends all Alaskans carry naloxone, a drug that can rapidly reverse an overdose.
[Sign up for Alaska Public Media’s daily newsletter to get our top stories delivered to your inbox.]