Is there a story you think we should be covering? Have a tip on something we should look at?
Contact Us

Opioid Overdose Deaths Down in Worcester, Stratewide in 2023

By Tom Marino | June 12, 2024
Last Updated: June 12, 2024

BOSTON – Opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts fell by 10 percent in 2023, according to a new report by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Opioid-related overdose deaths in Worcester declined with from 1,025 in 2022 to 835 in 2023, an 18 percent decrease.

The number of deaths in the state dropped from 2,357 in 2022 to 2,125 in 2023, the largest single-year decline in 13 years. The rate of death decreased from 33.5 per 100,000 in 2022 to 30.2 in 2023.

Preliminary data from January to March 2024 show 507 Opioid-related overdose deaths statewide, a nine percent drop from the same time in 2023.

“While we are encouraged by the overall decrease in overdose deaths, this report also is a reminder of the work that we still need to do to bring deaths down for all people and all areas of the state,” said Governor Maura Healey.

Among white non-Hispanic men, overdose deaths declined by 16 percent, with rates dropping from 48.2 to 40.4 per 100,000 people. Black non-Hispanic residents remain significantly affected, with the overdose death rate among Black non-Hispanic men increasing from 80 per 100,000 to 84.6.

Rural areas of Massachusetts have the highest opioid-related death rates at 35.6 per 100,000 residents, which is higher than urban, suburban, and less rural areas.

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows a 4 percent drop in opioid-related deaths nationwide in 2023

Fentanyl remains a substantial driver of overdose deaths. In 2023, 90 percent of fatal opioid-related overdoses where toxicology data was available. Xylazine, a veterinary sedative. and mixed with fentanyl, increased from 5 percent of opioid-related deaths in 2022 to 9 percent in 2023.

“Every overdose death is tragic, preventable and unacceptable,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Kate Walsh. “While we are proud and encouraged that fewer Massachusetts residents were lost to overdose last year, we know that inequities persist, and our work is not done.

Additional findings from the report:

  • Cocaine was present in 54 percent of opioid-related overdose deaths where a toxicology screen was available, alcohol in 26 percent, benzodiazepines in 25 percent, amphetamines in 11 percent, prescription opioids in 7 percent, and heroin in 5 percent.
  • 48 percent of all opioid-related overdose deaths were between 25 and 44 years old; 43 percent were between 45 and 64 years old.
  • Males comprised 72 percent of all opioid-related overdose deaths in 2023.
  • In 2023, men aged 35-44 accounted for the greatest number of suspected opioid-related incidents with a known age and sex treated by Emergency Medical Services (EMS) at 20.4 percent.
  • 58.7 percent of all opioid-related incidents treated by EMS in 2023 were acute opioid overdoses and 1.7 percent were dead on arrival of an opioid overdose.
  • The largest opioid-related overdose death decreases in 2023 were seen in Essex County (-21.7 percent), Middlesex County (-20.8 percent), Plymouth County (-18.9 percent), and Worcester County (-16 percent).
  • Cities and towns that experienced a notable decrease in opioid-related overdose deaths in 2023 compared with 2022 were: Brockton, Cambridge, Falmouth, Lawrence, Leominster, Lynn, Pittsfield, Randolph, Waltham, and Wareham.
  • Cities and towns that experienced a notable increase in opioid-related overdose deaths in 2023 compared with 2022 were: Holyoke and Taunton

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story said the decrease in opioid related deaths from 2022 to 2023 is the largest decrease in two decades. It is the largest decrease in 13 years, since the decrease from 2009 to 2010. 

Follow us on, the social network for Worcester and you!

This Week in Worcester participates in affiliate marketing programs. This means we may post customized links, provided by retailers, to track referrals to their websites, and we may earn an advertising fee from any purchases made through these links. This program uses cookies to track visits for the purposes of assigning commission on these sales