Report: Massachusetts opioid deaths continue to rise

BOSTON (AP) — A state report estimates that opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts rose for a sixth consecutive year and that fentanyl is playing a role in as many as three-quarters of the fatalities.

The latest figures released Friday by the Department of Public Health show 1,465 confirmed unintentional overdose deaths in 2016, with another 469 to 562 suspected opioid-related deaths awaiting a final review.

There were 1,579 confirmed and another 154 suspected opioid-related deaths in 2015.

The report found a decline in the number of deaths blamed on heroin, but that was offset by an increase in fentanyl-related deaths. Toxicology screens showed fentanyl present in 75 percent of the 2016 deaths.

State officials say the report also points to a 15 percent decrease in the number of prescriptions written for opioid painkillers.

(Copyright (c) 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)