Should I be worried about fentanyl?

Two vials showing the amount of heroin and the amount of fentanyl that can be fatal if ingested. Photo credit: Geoff Forester Concord Monitor

The opioid epidemic may be getting even more deadly, due to wider availability of the drug

Fentanyl is a highly addictive synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. The pharmaceutical drug is manufactured for pain management; however, clandestine laboratories also produce the drug and mix in heroin sometimes referred to as Apace, China Girl, Dance Fever, or He-Man, the deadly cocktail has infiltrated our streets, neighborhoods, and workplaces1.

According to a recently published report from the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System, between 2011 and 2016, fentanyl was among the top 10 drugs most frequently involved in deaths from drug overdose. According to the report:

  • Oxycodone held the top spot for fatal overdoses in 20112
  • Heroin reigned as the number one culprit for overdoses from 2011 to 20152
  • Overdose deaths from fentanyl surpassed both oxycodone and heroin starting in 20162

Today, fentanyl continues to play a significant role in drug overdose deaths in the US, with large-scales manufacturing and smuggling into the country of serious concern. On January 31of this year, the US Customs and Border Protection announced the biggest-ever fentanyl bust in history3. Officials in Arizona seized more than 254 pounds fentanyl coming across the border from Mexico in a produce truck.

Sadly, according to the CDC, more than 28,000 deaths were directly attributed to synthetic opioids in 20174. Additionally, deaths from synthetic opioids significantly increased in 23 states and Washington D.C. from 2016 – 2017, with West Virginia, Ohio, and New Hampshire with the highest synthetic opioid related death rates4.

More overdose deaths in the US are linked to fentanyl than any other drug1. As illicit manufacturing continues, increased public education and awareness will be increasingly important in stopping fentanyl’s deadly effects.

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Sources:

1Fentanyl. National Institute on Drug Abuse https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/fentanyl

2National Vital Statistics Report https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr67/nvsr67_09-508.pdf

3US border officers make largest-ever fentanyl bust https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-border-officials-announce-largest-ever-fentanyl-seizure/2019/01/31/a43eeb62-258c-11e9-90cd-dedb0c92dc17_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.012d6dd66807

4Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Sythetic Opioid Overdose Data” https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/fentanyl.html