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Exploring Drug Overdose Mortality Data in Harris County, Texas


Drug overdose mortality is a growing problem in the United States. In 2017 alone over 72,000 deaths were attributed to drug overdose, most of which were caused by fentanyl and fentanyl analogs (synthetic opioids). While nearly every community has seen an increase in drug overdose, there is considerable variation in the degree of increase in specific communities. The Harris County community, which includes the City of Houston, has not seen the massive spikes observed in some communities, such as West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio. However, the situation in Harris County is complicated in mortality and drug use. From 2010 - 2016 Harris County has seen a fairly stable overdose-related mortality count, ranging from 450 - 618 deaths per year. Of concern, the last two years, 2015-2016, suggest a sharp increase has occurred. Another complexity is that Harris County drug related deaths seem to be largely from polysubstance abuse. Deaths attributed to cocaine, methamphetamine, and benzodiazipine all have risen in the past few years. Deaths associated with methamphetamine have risen from approximately 20 per year in 2010 - 2012 to 119 in 2016. This 6-fold increase is alarming and suggests a large-scale public health response is needed.

Objective: In this session, we will explore the results of a descriptive analysis of all drug overdose mortality data collected by the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office and how that data can be used to inform public health action.

Submitted by elamb on