- Associated Press - Sunday, March 4, 2018

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - The number of accidental overdose deaths in Vermont involving the synthetic drug fentanyl has jumped by a third, but the number of heroin deaths has dropped, according to a new report from the Vermont Department of Health.

In its annual report to the Legislature, the department said the number of overdoses involving fentanyl rose from 51 to 68. The same statistics show that the number of heroin deaths dropped from 51 in 2016 to 41 last year, a drop of just under 20 percent.

“We fully expect that when there are deaths, they will include fentanyl,” Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine told Vermont Public Radio. “That’s the crisis in the country … Fentanyl is such a high proportion of the products that people with substance use disorder are purchasing.”

Fentanyl is “30 to 50 times more potent than heroin,” according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Overall, 104 people died of overdoses in Vermont 2017, more than double 2012. But the 2017 total was almost the same as 2016.

“I think if you want to find a silver lining in the good news in this data, is that we have really … plateaued, in terms of the number of overdose deaths, in a country where the numbers continue to escalate,” said Levine.

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