Synthetic opioid fentanyl is linked to a large number of drug overdose deaths in multiple states
United State is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic. Since 1999, overdose deaths from prescribed opioids have nearly quadrupled as almost half a million people died from drug overdoses during this period. Now, a drug called fentanyl is fueling this overdose epidemic.
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Fentanyl is a powerful opiate drug that is used to treat severe pain. It is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin. However, illegally manufactured fentanyl is proving harmful. The increasing distribution of illegally made fentanyl is killing people at an alarming rate.
According to a report report published online August 25 in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), 426% more products were tested positive for fentanyl from 2012 to 2014 and in the same time period deaths related to synthetic opioids increased by 79%.
“In contrast to the 2005–2007 fentanyl overdose outbreak, when deaths were confined to several states, the current epidemic is unprecedented in scope and, as described in a report in this issue of MMWR, multiple states in several regions of the United States are reporting substantial increases in fatal synthetic opioid–involved overdoses, primarily driven by fentanyl-involved overdose deaths.” CDC said in the report.
Report identifies eight U.S. states – Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Ohio, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland and North Carolina – where a large number of drug overdose deaths are tied to fentanyl. In particular, Ohio and Florida have seen a sharp rise in fentanyl-related drug overdose deaths last year. When data was combined from states, total fentanyl related deaths increased from 392 deaths in 2013 to 1,400 deaths in 2014, showing a dramatic uptick in a span of just one year.
In 2015, the Drug Enforcement Administration and CDC released alerts after identifying a surge in fentanyl cases in multiple states and considered it a threat to public health and safety.
“Although fentanyl is available as a prescription medication for treating severe pain, including cancer-related pain, the current epidemic of synthetic opioid- overdose deaths largely involves illicitly manufactured fentanyl that is mixed with or sold as heroin.” Report says.
“An urgent, collaborative public health and law enforcement response is needed to address the increasing problem of IMF and fentanyl deaths.”Authors wrote in the report.