Current Suspected Overdose Deaths in Delaware for 2018: 259 logo

DHSS Press Release

Dr. Kara Odom Walker, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498

Date: March 27, 2017


DOVER, DE (March 27, 2017) - Heroin, a powerful and highly addictive illegal opioid that can slow breathing, cause coma, and result in death, may have been involved in four fatalities in New Castle County over the weekend. Evidence of heroin use was recovered at each of the sites in Wilmington, Claymont, and Newark, according to New Castle County Police.

The Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) reminds Delawareans of the dangers of illegal opioid use and legal opioid abuse. And that detox and treatment resources exist on the Help is Here website (

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who lost loved ones this weekend," said DHSS Cabinet Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker. "Addiction is a chronic disease with people and their families potentially fighting a lifelong battle together. As we work to address this epidemic, DHSS reminds people that prevention is the best medicine - do not start using illegal drugs and carefully consider prescription pain medication regimens that include opioids."

"Delaware is working hard to ensure there are detox and treatment slots available," added DHSS Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Director Michael Barbieri. "We also want people to remember that recovery can have its ups and downs - and that someone may have to try several times to stay in recovery but that they can do it."

Dr. Karyl Rattay, Director of the Division of Public Health (DPH), noted that many people struggling with addiction often start with legal prescription medication due to an injury or surgery.

"As Delaware works with medical providers to further reduce the pipeline to pain medication abuse, it is vital that families, schools and community partners recognize the potential signs of addiction and urge their loved ones to seek treatment," Rattay said. "It is also important that medical providers considering prescribing opioids follow the new state regulations, consider alternative approaches to pain management, and screen their patients for potential addiction."

Patients and medical providers can find more information on prescription opioids on the attached fact sheets. For information on the new state prescription regulations, visit

Physical signs of potential addiction include:

Emotional signs of potential addiction include:

For those struggling with addiction either directly or with a loved one,

One thing still to be determined as part of any toxicology testing is if fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller that is up to 50 times more potent than heroin, was present in the most recent deaths.

Delaware has seen a sharp increase in overdoses since 2014, largely driven by fentanyl. In 2016, the Division of Forensic Science confirmed its presence in more than a third of that year's 308 total fatal overdoses. In those 120 fentanyl-related deaths, fentanyl alone was confirmed in 51 cases, cocaine also was present in 48 cases, and heroin was confirmed in 37 of those cases. In 16 cases, heroin and cocaine were both confirmed.

For more information click here Prescription Opioid Fact Sheet for Providers and Prescription Opioid Fact Sheet for Patients

A person who is deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind or speech-disabled can call the DPH phone number above by using TTY services. Dial 7-1-1 or 800-232-5460 to type your conversation to a relay operator, who reads your conversation to a hearing person at DPH. The relay operator types the hearing person's spoken words back to the TTY user. To learn more about TTY availability in Delaware, visit

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations. DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, and drink almost no sugary beverages.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.