A new government report released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that fentanyl is now the most common drug involved in drug overdoses. According to the agency’s statistics, fentanyl overdoses have increased by 113% each year between 2013 and 2016. 63,632 people died from overdoses in 2016.
The CDC analyzed death certificates for drug overdose deaths between 2011 and 2016 and found that fentanyl was involved in close to 29% of all overdose deaths that occurred in 2016. The figures for 2011 show that fentanyl was involved in only 4% of drug overdose deaths. Oxycodone was responsible for 13% of all fatal drug overdoses in 2011.
Heroin was the common drug involved in drug overdose deaths from 2012 to 2015. In 2011, fatal heroin overdoses totaled 4,571, or 11% of all drug fatalities. By 2016, the number more than tripled to 15,961 deaths.
The new study also revealed that most overdoses involved more than one drug. 2 out of 5 cocaine-related overdose deaths reported in 2016 also involved fentanyl, while close to one-third of fentanyl-related overdoses also involved heroin. When it comes to meth-related fatal overdoses, more than 20% involved heroin. In total, more than 18,000 overdose deaths reported in 2016 involved fentanyl.
According to Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-founder of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, fatal overdoes from prescription opioids still exceed heroin and fentanyl deaths. "Fentanyl is so deadly, in the geographic regions where it's been flooding in, deaths soared like we've never seen before," said Dr. Kolodny.
While much of the focus of the drug overdose crisis has been on opioids, the rates and numbers of cocaine- and methamphetamine-related deaths continues to increase. From 2014 to 2016, cocaine-related fatalities jumped from 5,892 to 11,316.
The study also concluded that drugs like fentanyl and heroin were commonly found in unintentional overdoses, while prescription drugs were more commonly used in suicidal overdoses.
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