If you think heroin is the deadliest opioid in America, think again. While that might have been the case in the past, things have taken a major shift over the past few years.
Heroin led to nearly 16,000 deaths last year, but another popular opioid surpassed that tragic number.
If you have not guessed already, we are talking about fentanyl.
Fentanyl is an opioid that is over a 100 times stronger than street heroin. To put that into perspective, transdermal fentanyl is 100-150xs more potent than oral morphine and is often prescribed to treat advanced cancer patients.
Drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl doubled during 2016, accounting for 25% more deaths than heroin, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier this week.
In 2016, the data revealed that 64,000 Americans died of drug overdoses. Out of this number, 20,100 deaths were attributed to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. If we compared those numbers to heroin deaths, that’s an almost 5000 person difference!
The recent data also reveals how unevenly drug deaths are spread throughout the country:
- In states like Delaware, overdose rates rose 71% between 2016 and 2017 (with 309 deaths during the year).
- Maryland had an increase of 67% for a total of 2,171 overdose deaths.
- Of the states that reported data, only Nebraska, Washington and Wyoming saw a decrease in overdose deaths over the past year.
Fentanyl has been getting a great deal of attention as the drug is responsible for the massive increase in overdose fatalities. For example, last year in Massachusetts, 69% of people who died of an opioid overdose (and had a toxicology screen) had fentanyl in their systems, according to the Boston Business Journal.
Furthermore, in Ohio, fentanyl killed nearly 2,400 people in 2016, which is double the number in comparison to the year prior, according to Cincinatti.com
“It truly is everywhere,” Barbara Carreno, a spokeswoman for the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), said to USA Today.
Education is Key
Over the summer, the DEA worked to educate first responders about the dangers of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids like carfentanil and acryl fentanyl. These synthetic opioids are strong enough to make even the most casual user overdose and pose a severe threat.
Despite the dangers of addicts receiving a potentially fatal drug, law enforcement officials say the demand for fentanyl continues to rise. This is because fentanyl boost profits for dealers to sell the drug as heroin.
“You can make it as strong as you want, and in bulk and fast,” said Tim Reagan, a DEA agent in Cincinnati.
Still, law enforcement expects fentanyl seizure to become more of the norm at the end of this year.
“I expect that in fiscal year 2017, the numbers of seizures in the mail and express consignment environment (such as FedEx and UPS) will be much higher than they were last year,” said Robert Perez, an acting commissioner with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency.
Where is it coming from?
Fentanyl is coming from a variety of locations, but one main target is China. China has been singled out as the main source of synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Through the dark web, drug dealers are able to purchase fentanyl from websites hosted in China. They then have shipments sent to the US.
According to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), seizures of fentanyl arriving by mail have increased significantly:
- In 2011, 0.09 kilograms of fentanyl were seized by mail
- In 2016 it rose to 37 kilograms
Unfortunately, officials in the United States are expecting the worse when it comes to the opioid crisis. Experts are looking at current trends, and most believe the opioid crisis will get worse before it gets better.
Did you know the major impact fentanyl was having on the opioid crisis? Sadly, when it comes to using drugs, your next high could be your last. Therefore, make a choice to recover from addiction today. Tomorrow may be too late. Do not wait. We are waiting for your call. Call now.