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Drug abuse and addiction are prevalent and problematic in Rhode Island. The number of drug overdoses in the state is rising each year, and prescription opioid addiction has well and truly become an epidemic. It is undoubtedly the biggest drug problem in the state. Alongside heroin, prescription opioid pain relievers are the most problematic issue the justice and healthcare systems face in Rhode Island.

The Prescription Drug Crisis In Rhode Island

Neighboring Massachusetts hasn't improved things for Rhode Island. The state next door had 1,574 confirmed unintentional deaths due to opioid overdoses in 2015 alone, per the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. As is to be expected, prescription opioid abuse, and the glut of overdoses that come with it, has migrated heavily into Rhode Island. The problem of opioid abuse is however not limited to Rhode Island, as many states in the region are experiencing the ill effects of the epidemic.

With opioid abuse such a problem in the state of Rhode Island, people often unknowing take stronger opioids in an effort to get a quick fix. There are those whom, after finding it hard to access prescription drugs, migrate to illicit opioids like heroin.

It is not unusual for people who use heroin to end up hooked on Fentanyl, since dealers may cut heroin or prescription painkillers with the drug in order to increase the potency more cheaply. Fentanyl is actually 30-50 times stronger than heroin, and around 50-100 times more potent than morphine, per CNN.

According to Prevent Overdose Rhode Island - a program in place meant to curb the high rates of overdosing in the state, Providence ranks highest for drug overdoses in Rhode Island, surpassing all of these cities with its more than 50 drug overdoses in 2015. The prescription painkiller Fentanyl appears to be the state's largest culprit of drug overdose.

In 2015, at least 47 percent of the 258 drug overdose deaths that occurred in the state involved Fentanyl, per WPRI News.

The rate at which Fentanyl has been involved in drug overdose deaths in the state has increased more than 15-fold since the year 2009. One of the most popular forms of this drug — the transdermal pain patch — is very highly abused in Rhode Island. Some individuals in desperate need of a fix have even been known to eat the patches to achieve a stronger high.

Perhaps what makes this epidemic most worrisome is that there is no geographic concentration when it comes to Fentanyl overdose; the issue is widespread throughout the state and into the bordering states.

The majority of the drug trade in the state comes through from gangs like the Bloods and Crips or Latin Kings, and via urban areas like Providence. As the state branches out into more rural areas, drug overdose statistics decrease steadily.

A big part of the problem isn't illicit drugs though: legitimate prescriptions are at the root of much of the problem. Often, opioid pain relievers are prescribed for far longer than necessary. The National Safety Council notes that 99 percent of prescribing physicians go beyond the three-day dosage limitation that is recommended for opioids like Fentanyl.

In 2017, Rhode Island providers wrote 51.2 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons, compared to the average U.S. rate of 58.7 prescriptions. It speaks volumes that this is the lowest rate in the state since 2006 when data became available (per the CDC).

The age-adjusted rate of deaths involving opioid prescriptions increased overall in the last decade. In past year, however, there was a slight decrease from 10.5 to 8.8 deaths per 100,000 persons.

In 2017, there were 277 overdose deaths involving opioids in Rhode Island — an age-adjusted rate of 26.9 deaths per 100,000 persons, compared to the average national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000 persons. The greatest increase was seen in cases related to synthetic opioids other than methadone (mainly Fentanyl).

Deaths involving Fentanyl rose from 12 deaths in 2012 to 201 deaths in 2017. Heroin or prescription opioid-involved overdose deaths declined in the same period from 30 to 14 deaths and from 214 to 569 deaths, respectively. The highest number of deaths in 2017 involved prescription opioids with 646 deaths reported.

NAS or neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS) may occur when a pregnant woman uses drugs such as opioids during pregnancy.There were 9.1 cases of NAS/NOWS per 1,000 hospital births reported in 2016 in Rhode Island (per the Rhode Island Department of Health).

Of the new HIV cases in 2016, 70 occurred in Rhode Island. Among males, 11.8 percent of new HIV cases were attributed to opioid and prescription opioid abuse or male-to-male contact and opioid abuse. Among females, 21.1 percent of new HIV cases were attributed to opioid abuse.

In 2015, an estimated 2,357 persons were living with a diagnosed HIV infection in Rhode Island — a rate of 259 cases per 100,000 persons. Of those, 22.1 percent of male cases were attributed to opioid and prescription opioid abuse or male-to-male contact and IDU. Among females, 30.0 percent were living with HIV attributed to opioid abuse.

In Rhode Island, there are an estimated 10,100 persons living with Hepatitis C (per the 2013-2016 annual average), a rate of 1,200 cases per 100,000 persons. A large number of these cases were attributable to opioid and prescription opioid abuse.

Addiction Treatment In Rhode Island

Fortunately, there are numerous centers of treatment and rehab in Rhode Island. There are many types of treatment centers such as long term addiction treatment facilities, short term drug abuse treatment, outpatient detoxification programs, outpatient substance abuse treatment services, inpatient drug abuse treatment and others.

There is a wide range of drug and alcohol rehab facilities available. They include individual psychotherapy, dialectical behavior therapy, couple/family therapy, trauma therapy, trauma-related counseling, cognitive/behavior therapy and others, to name a few. If you need rehab in Rhode Island, all you need to do is place a call to any of the available rehab centers.









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If you are addicted to alcohol or drugs, it is imperative that you look for professional help as soon as you possibly can. However, you might not know where to start or the options that are open to you. Similarly, you may have little to no idea about the differences between the different treatment facilities and the programs they have in store for their patients.

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