The number of Virginia drug overdose deaths rose again in 2021, setting a record for a second year in a row, according to a state report.
Overdose deaths increased 15% in 2021 from the previous year, to 2,656, The Virginian-Pilot reported Saturday, citing the report from the Virginia Department of Health. The powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl was the driving force, causing or contributing to 76.5% of all overdose deaths in 2021, up from 2020.
Drug traffickers are mixing fentanyl with other substances to make them easier and cheaper to manufacture and transport, Rosie Hobron, the statewide forensic epidemiologist and author of the report, told the newspaper.
Hobron also said traditional remedies for overdoses are proving less effective against fentanyl. For instance, she said it can take multiple doses of the opioid overdose reversal treatment Narcan to bring someone out of a fentanyl overdose.
In the Hampton Roads region, Norfolk and Virginia Beach reported the highest number of drug overdose deaths last year, but Portsmouth had the region’s highest fatal overdose rate.
The report noted that the numbers presented were preliminary, subject to change and most likely slightly under reported. Data in the report was obtained from the Virginia Medical Examiner Database System.