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State Corrects Alarming Fentanyl Overdose Data

Jun 15, 2018

Recent state data that had raised the alarm on opioid overdose deaths turns out to have been inaccurate. 

In late May, new data from the California Department of Public Health had pointed to an alarming trend: The number of Californians who died of overdoses due to the street drug fentanyl had tripled between 2016 and 2017. We reported on the problem here, as did other news outlets.

But there was one problem: The data were wrong. The state had inadvertently doubled its tally of fentanyl-related deaths, and it’s issued a correction. In an email statement, a health department spokesperson said the numbers were misreported due to a data processing error.

In reality, in 2017, 373 Californians died of fentanyl-related deaths, not 746. Compared to 2016, the number marks a 1-year increase not of 300 percent, but 57 percent.

However, a 57 percent increase in fentanyl-related deaths is still substantial - especially since in 2017, the total number of overdose deaths from all opioids in California dropped to its lowest since 2012.