Fentanyl deaths are now responsible for more than half of the US’s fatal opioid overdoses, new CDC data suggest.
The synthetic opioid has become increasingly popular in the US since 2013, and this has been blamed on the fact that it is frequently imported from China and Mexico. Fentanyl can be up to 50 times stronger than heroin.
The agency’s new report provides details on how prominent the drug has become during America’s worst drug crisis in modern history.
In some states where the crisis has hit the hardest in the Northeast, the drug now accounts for more than 70 percent of opioid-related deaths.
The report makes clear the grim dangers of the continued failed attempts at limiting the drug epidemic.
Fentanyl is responsible for more than 50 percent of opioid overdose deaths in the US, according to a new CDC report
The CDC recently reported that drug overdose death rates were up more than 20 percent in 2016.
The agency said 65,765 Americans were killed by drugs from February 2016 to February 2017, and this number was up from 53,835 in the same time period the year before.
Territories that had the steepest increases in overdose deaths were Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Maryland and North Dakota.
The new analysis shows that in the last half of 2016 fentanyl caused more than 70 percent of overdose deaths in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, where the chief medical examiner recently retired early due to the onslaught of work brought on by the epidemic.
OTHER NAMES FOR ILLICIT FENTANYL
The legal versions of fentanyl are prescribed to alleviate severe pain associated with advanced cancer.
Illegally-made fentanyl is often mixed with heroin or cocaine.
Other names for the drug purchased on the dark web or from a trafficker include:
- China Girl
- China Town
- Dance Fever
- Great Bear
- King Ivory
- Murder 8
- Tango & Cash
The report was the first of its kind to employ toxicological evidence and information from death scenes in multiple states to categorize opioid overdose deaths.
Researchers who worked on the new study found that fentanyl analogs such as carfentanil, which is an elephant tranquilizer, are also on the rise.
‘Fentanyl was involved in more than 50 percent of opioid overdose deaths, and more than 50 percent of deaths testing positive for fentanyl and fentanyl analogs also tested positive for other illicit drugs,’ the report stated.
The authors are concerned that fentanyl analogs could mimic the pattern of fentanyl and become more and more popular in the coming months.
The report said: ‘This finding raises concern that in the near future, fentanyl analog overdose deaths might mirror the rapidly rising trajectory of fentanyl overdose deaths that began in 2013 and become a major factor in opioid overdose deaths.’
The CDC has allotted more resources to certain states’ abilities to test for fentanyl analogs when a person overdoses and dies because of this problem, the report said.
The agency outlined steps that need to be taken in order to address the rising number of opioid-related deaths.
There needs to be increased access to medication-assisted treatment and naloxone – a drug that reverses the symptoms of an opioid overdose – for the crisis to deescalate, the report said.
These actions are ‘needed to address a large and growing percentage of opioid overdose deaths involving fentanyl and fentanyl analogs’.