ATLANTA, GEORGIA — According to the latest numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, fentanyl is now the most commonly used drug that resulting in drug overdoses. The new report said the rate of drug overdoses involving the synthetic opioids increased by about 113 percent each year from 2013 through 2016.
Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever, approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain.
It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is prescribed in the form of transdermal patches or lozenges.
However, most recent cases of fentanyl-related harm, overdose and death in the U.S. are linked to illegally made fentanyl. It is sold through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect. It is often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination product–with or without the user’s knowledge–to increase its euphoric effects.
The rate of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, which includes fentanyl, doubled from 2015 to 2016. Roughly 19,400 people in the United States died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids other than methadone in 2016.
Reports from law enforcement indicate that much of the synthetic opioid overdose increase is due to illegally or illicitly made fentanyl. According to data from the National Forensic Laboratory Information System, confiscations, or seizures, of fentanyl increased by nearly seven-fold from 2012 to 2014. There were 4,585 fentanyl confiscations in 2014. This suggests that the sharp rise in fentanyl-related deaths may be due to increased availability of illegally made, non-pharmaceutical fentanyl, and not prescribed fentanyl.
The number of states reporting 20 or more fentanyl confiscations every six months is increasing. From July to December 2014, 18 states reported 20 or more fentanyl drug confiscations. By comparison, six states reported 20 or more fentanyl drug confiscations from July to December 2013.
The growing number of drug overdoses prompted President Trump to declare opioids a national public health emergency.
As a result, the CDC is recommending the following actions:
The CDC is also recommending that first-responders have the drug Naxozone, also called Narcan, on hand for overdoses. Naloxone is a safe and effective antidote to opioid-related overdoses, including heroin and fentanyl, and is a critical tool in preventing fatal opioid overdoses.
The center also recommends that families with members at risk of an overdose have a supply of Narcan available.
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