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Statewide Semiannual Opioid Report May 2022

Fatal Opioid Overdoses

2021 data are still provisional and may change as cases are reviewed.

In 2021, there were 3,013 fatalities due to opioid overdose in Illinois. This represents a 2.3% increase from 2020 and a 35.8% increase from 2019 (Fig. 1). Monthly trends, although variable, have not shown the same peak that occurred in May 2020 (Fig. 2). Instead, the monthly totals were generally higher in 2021, with the median number of fatalities in 2020 being 241 and the median number of fatalities in 2021 was 257. The 12-month rolling average has remained steady since autumn 2020.

Yearly opioid fatalities in Illinois from 2013-2021 as reported by the Illinois Vital Records System, IDPH

Monthly and 12-month rolling averages of opioid fatalities in Illinois from 2019-2021 as reported by the Illinois Vital Records System, IDPH

Demographics of opioid fatalities are listed in Table 1. The highest number of opioid fatalities in 2021 occurred in non-Hispanic White individuals (1,468), while the highest age-adjusted fatality rate was among non-Hispanic Blacks (60.8 per 100,000). By age group, the highest number of opioid fatalities occurred in the 45-54-year age group (672), followed closely by the 35-44-year age group (666) and the 55-64-year age group (659). However, the highest age-adjusted fatality rate occurred in the 35-44-year age group (6.6 per 100,000), followed by the 45-54-year age group (5.8 per 100,000) and the 25-34-year age group (4.8 per 100,000). Finally, the highest number and rate of opioid fatalities occurred in males (2,232; 36.1 per 100,000), which accounted for 74% of the fatalities.

Statewide Opioid Fatality Rate by Race/Ethnicity, Age Group, and Sex for 2021 as reported by the Illinois Vital Records System, IDPH

Statewide

Total Number - 3013

Fatality Rate (per 100,000 capita) - 24

Statewide fatality rates are age-adjusted.

Race/Ethnicity

Race/Ethnicity Total Number Fatality Rate (per 100,000 capita)

Non-Hispanic White

1468 20.5

Non-Hispanic Black

1158 60.8

Hispanic/Latinx

361 16.6

Non-Hispanic Other

26 3.0

Race/Ethnicity fatality rates are age-adjusted.

Age Groups

Age Group Total Number Fatality Rate (per 100,000 capita)

< 25

228 2.1

25 - 34

613 4.8

35 - 44

666 6.6

45 - 54

672 5.8

55 - 64

659 3.5

65+

175 1.1

Age Group fatality rates are age-adjusted.

Sex

Sex Total Number Fatality Rate (per 100,000 capita)

Female

781 12.2

Male

2232 36.1

The rise in the number of opioid fatalities in the past decade nationwide is attributed to the influx of synthetic opioids (fentanyl and its analogs) into the drug supply and to an increase in polysubstance use. In 2021, toxicology testing found that 2,672 (89%) of the opioid fatalities involved a synthetic opioid. Further, 1,789 (59%) of the opioid fatalities involved at least one additional substance (Table 2).

Substance involvement in opioid-related fatalities for 2021 as reported by the Illinois Vital Records System, IDPH

Total Opioid-Involved Fatalities - 3013

Opioid Only - 1224

Opioid + Another Substance - 1789

  • Cocaine - 660
  • Multiple substances - 445
  • Alcohol - 235
  • Benzodiazepine - 227
  • Psychostimulant - 222

Opioid use and opioid fatalities are spread across the state. High opioid overdose rates occur in both urban, small urban, and rural counties, with 17 having a rate above the statewide opioid fatality rate of 24 deaths per 100,000 capita. Figure 3 and Table 3 depict the provisional county-level opioid overdose fatality rate per 100,000 capita.

2021 Provisional Illinois Opioid Fatality Rate per 100,000 capita by county as reported by the Illinois Vital Records System, IDPH

 

0-8.0

 

>8.0-16.0

 

>16.0-24.0

 

>24.0-32.0

 

>32.0

County-level fatality rates are calculated by the number of county residents who died due to opioid overdose per year divided by the population of the county and multiplied by 100,000. Counties with smaller populations could have rates higher than counties with larger populations, even though there are fewer opioid fatalities.

2021 Provisional number of opioid fatalities and opioid fatality rate per 100,000 capita by county

County Number of Opioid Fatalities Opioid Fatality Rate per 100000 Capita

Non-Fatal Opioid Overdoses

Monthly opioid overdose-related emergency department (ED) visits and emergency medical services (EMS) encounters in Illinois, 2020-2021

ED visits as reported by IDPH Syndromic Surveillance System; EMS encounters as reported by IDPH Prehospital Emergency Medical Services.

Monthly opioid overdose-related hospitalizations in Illinois in 2020-2021 as reported by IDPH Hospital Discharge Dataset

Monthly opioid overdose-related hospitalization, ED visit, and EMS encounter trends are similar to the fatality trends. In the winter months of 2020 and into 2021, hospitalizations, ED visits, and EMS encounters decreased, but then increased again during the spring and summer months and remained steady throughout the remainder of 2021 (Figure 4 and Figure 5), which are similar to the fatal overdose trends.

Illicit substances are not regulated and pose significant risk of harm. If taking illicit substances, there are precautions that can be utilized. Consider testing the substance for fentanyl using fentanyl test strips. Carry naloxone and do not use substances alone. Also, be aware that more than one dose of naloxone may be required to reverse an overdose when a synthetic opioid is ingested.

For more information on opioids, visit https://dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/opioids.html. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use, the Illinois Helpline is available at https://helplineil.org/app/home, call 833-234-6343, or text “HELP” to 833234.