Synthetic Opioids Fentanyl and Carfentanil Responsible For Half Of Overdose Deaths, Says CDC

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Synthetic Opioids Fentanyl and Carfentanil Responsible For Half Of Overdose Deaths, Says CDC

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil caused more than half of the opioid overdose deaths in 2016. People are most often exposed to these drugs without their knowledge when they are mixed into heroin by dealers to maximize profits.

The report is based on data from ten states and includes reports from more than 5,000 overdose deaths that occurred between July-December of 2016. The states include Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Researchers reported that fentanyl was detected “at least half” of overdose fatalities involving opioids in 7 of the ten states. Other illegal drugs such as heroin were also linked to 57% of these deaths. In nearly half the cases heroin was injected.

Overdose deaths linked to fentanyl occurred more often in the northeast, where between 60-90% of deaths were associated with fentanyl. About 4 in 5 victims were white, victims were mostly male (71%) and aged 25-44.

Other illegal drugs co-occurred in 57.0% and 51.3% of deaths related to fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, respectively. Cocaine and confirmed or suspected heroin was detected in a significant percentage of deaths. Nearly half (45.8%) of deaths related to fentanyl analogs tested positive for two or more analogs or fentanyl, or both.

Fentanyl is about 100 times more powerful than morphine, and carfentanil is 10,000 more potent. Carfentanil is not indicated for humans and is only used as a large animal tranquilizer – Ohio alone experienced 350 fatal overdoses of the drug.

The CDC estimates that at least 60,000 deadly overdoses occurred in 2016, and the majority were related to illicit opioids or prescription painkillers such as oxycodone. Last week, President Trump issued an announcement declaring the opioid crisis a public health emergency.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology


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