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Ochsner J. 2019 Winter;19(4):314-318. doi: 10.31486/toj.19.0039.

Surge in Fentanyl Toxicity Deaths in Jefferson Parish, LA, 2013-2018.

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Loyola University New Orleans, New Orleans, LA.
Department of Forensic Pathology, Jefferson Parish Coroner's Office, Harvey, LA.
Department of Toxicology, Jefferson Parish Coroner's Office, Harvey, LA.
Department of Death Investigation, Jefferson Parish Coroner's Office, Harvey, LA.
Coroner, Jefferson Parish Coroner's Office, Harvey, LA.


Background: The opioid epidemic in the United States has resulted in a significant increase in fentanyl-related overdoses nationwide since 2013. Because of an increased rate of fentanyl-related overdoses seen in Jefferson Parish, LA, the Jefferson Parish Coroner's Office (JPCO) hypothesized that the opioid epidemic, specifically related to fentanyl, had reached this region. To test this hypothesis, JPCO analyzed fentanyl overdose deaths to determine if the deaths had increased during a 6-year period and if the change met the definition of an epidemic. Methods: In the toxicology laboratory at JPCO, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay screening and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry are used in-house to determine the presence of drugs. Drug-positive samples are sent to National Medical Services (NMS) Labs to quantify the analyte concentration in each sample. Data for each decedent were extracted from the Medicolegal Death Investigation Log (MDILog) database for the years 2013 through 2018. Results: A slow increase in fentanyl-related deaths during the first 3 years of the study period was followed by a near doubling of cases in 2016, a tripling of cases in 2017, and a 6-fold increase in incidence in 2018. During the 6-year study period, fentanyl-related deaths increased from 6 in 2013, to 8 in 2014, to 14 in 2015. Twenty-five deaths in 2016 spiked to 66 in 2017 and increased to 78 fentanyl-related overdose deaths in 2018. The percentage of fentanyl-related overdose deaths increased from 4% of all drug deaths in 2013 to 45% in 2018. Conclusion: The data validate the hypothesis that the fentanyl epidemic has affected Jefferson Parish in southeast Louisiana.


Analgesics–opioid; death; drug overdose; fentanyl

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