Opioid overdose deaths in DC reached record high in 2023, new report shows

Opioid overdose deaths are skyrocketing in our nation’s capital revealing the city’s struggle to fight the ongoing crisis.

New data from DC’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner shows an all-time record high. 518 people died of opioid overdoses in 2023. To put this into perspective, there were a total of 274 homicides total in 2023 so the number of opioid-related deaths was nearly double that. The staggering information amounts to more than 40 people being killed each month.

Jared Forget, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration Washington Division, tells Fox 5 taking drugs is not worth the risk because fentanyl is dangerous and powerful.

"It’s a reminder that fentanyl remains to be the deadliest drug threat in area. We know it’s killing a lot of people," said Forget. "It doesn’t matter where you’re from. Your race, your age, your socioeconomic status, it will victimize anybody that takes this poison."

The report reveals adults between the ages of 40 and 69 years old make up 71% of deadly overdoses.

A majority of them are men and 84% are Black residents. Between 2017 and 2023, most of the deadly overdoses happened in Wards 5, 7, and 8.

Dr. Edwin Chapman who is part of the DC Opioid Abatement Commissions said it is frustrating.

"Our community has been historically criminalized so really changing that paradigm has been a challenge," Chapman said.

He mentioned that the epidemic within the African American community is far worse compared to white users.

"It’s very obvious that over the years, we’ve not made any progress in really curbing this trajectory so we really have to take a different approach and that approach, to my estimation is going to require a dedicated network of providers including physicians, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, social workers, and outreach workers in the community," said Chapman.