Statistics show typical Eastern Connecticut drug addict is middle-aged white man

Statistics show typical Eastern Connecticut drug addict is middle-aged white man

Norwich Bulletin, July 3, 2016

By Jaclyn Diaz

The typical drug addict in Eastern Connecticut appears to be a white man in his mid to late 40s or 50s, according to statistics from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Statistics from 2015 and early 2016 show the victims of fatal drug overdoses in Eastern Connecticut were largely middle-aged white men. In the first quarter of 2016, the average age of the victim of a drug overdose in the region was 44. In 2015, 59 of the 90 people who died from a drug overdose in the region were white men. Of that group, there were 43 between the ages of 30 and 73.

In 2016 so far, the youngest person to die from a drug overdose was a New London 23-year-old who overdosed on fentanyl and heroin. The oldest person to overdose so far this year was 68; the Norwich death was attributed to cocaine.

Overall, the number of drug overdose deaths in Connecticut jumped from 357 in 2012 to 729 last year. In 2015, 416 of those deaths were due to heroin. In most of these cases, heroin or other opioids were the lethal substances.

Jack Malone, president and executive director of the Southeastern Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Inc., said the statistics aren’t surprising. “There are no old junkies,” he said. Meaning, for the most part, a drug addict’s life ends before the retirement age, Malone said.

Drug abuse affects all backgrounds back to top

Police officers and clinicians like Malone who deal with drug abuse in the region firsthand say addiction, especially to heroin or other opioid drugs, affects all demographics and socioeconomic backgrounds.

“We’re seeing everyone from teens to people in their 60s or even older,” Plainfield police Chief Michael Surprenant said. But according to a breakdown from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, middle-aged users are especially at risk from dying of a drug overdose.

Malone said the state’s statistics simply show how an older addict isn’t able to bounce back from a drug overdose in the same way someone in their early 20s might. “They can bounce back much better than an addict in their 40s,” he said. “Using drugs at 40 is a risky proposition.” Surprenant agreed. “The people who are dying may be in their 40s and 50s because they can no longer handle the stress of being an addict,” he said.

In Malone’s experience the 40- or 50-year-old victims are people who are familiar with rehab and treatment options. “That 40 or 50-year-old person was someone who we’ve seen somewhere along the line,” he said. “At some point they’ve decided to not continue with sobriety.”