A recent report by the Center of Disease Control (CDC) links over half of all opioid deaths that occurred from July to December of 2016 to fentanyl.
The CDC report notes that there has been a dramatic increase in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids in recent years.
In fact, the death rate from opioid overdose has experienced a fivefold increase, from approximately 3,000 in 2013 to 60,000 in 2016, states the report.
Researchers looked at the rate of opioid overdose deaths from July until December of 2016 and determined that 57 percent of those that died tested positive for fentanyl. Data were gleaned from preliminary death certificates and medical examiner or coroner reports from 10 states over that time-period.
According to the report, during that time 20,000 deaths, both intentional and unintentional, involved synthetic opioids in those states.
The CDC report notes that opioid deaths, along with the larger opioid problem, are widely under reported in the United States. Of the states included in the report, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Missouri had the highest rates of overdose deaths due to fentanyl – up to 90 percent.
Fentanyl, along with new synthetic fentanyl formulations, were responsible for over half of the deaths during that time, notes the CDC report.
Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. A synthetic drug developed to treat those in severe pain, such as cancer patients, illicit sources of the drug, along with the synthetic formulations, called analogs, appear to be driving the increased death rate from the opioid epidemic, according to the CDC.
The synthetic fentanyl formulations, including acetylfentanyl, furanylfentanyl, and carfentanil, present a particular problem because they are not easily detectable, but they are even more potent than fentanyl. One analog, carfentanil, can be 10,000 more potent than morphine.
Nearly 60 percent of those who died of opioid overdoses also had other illicit drugs in their system. While over prescription of the opioids has been a problem, the report notes that fentanyl is increasingly being made and sold illegally on the street.
Often, people become addicted to opioid pain killers after being provided a prescription. The CDC report indicates that these users are now turning to the much more dangerous street versions of the fentanyl drugs, including analogs.
Further, drug dealers may be adding fentanyl to other street drugs, like heroin, meaning drug users do not know what they are getting leading to an increased likelihood of overdose and death.
“Illicitly manufactured fentanyl is now a major driver of opioid overdose deaths in multiple states, with a variety of fentanyl analogs increasingly involved, if not solely implicated, in these deaths,” concludes the CDC report. “This finding raises concern that in the near future, fentanyl analog overdose deaths might mirror the rapidly rising trajectory of overdose deaths that began in 2013 and become a major factor in opioid overdose deaths.”
If you or a loved one have suffered from the opioid epidemic, contact the attorneys at McDonald Worley to evaluate your legal claim.