Published: Sat, December 15, 2018
Medical | By Vicki Mclaughlin

CDC: Fentanyl is the deadliest drug in America

CDC: Fentanyl is the deadliest drug in America

Health officials announced the new ranking of overdose deaths from 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, on Wednesday.

Analyzing the death certificates of cases related to drug overdose, CDC said fentanyl accounts for just 4 percent of the fatalities in 2011, the year when oxycodone was the leader.

While that may be the national trend, Jeff Reynolds, of Family and Children's Association, says opioid deaths are down locally. Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were involved in almost 30,000 overdoses a year ago, out of a total of about 70,000, according to federal estimates.

For Lisa Schmidt, nothing has been same since her son Joseph died of a lethal injection of heroin and cocaine five years ago. Each year from 2013 to 2016, the rate of drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl and fentanyl analogs doubled (0.6, 1.3, 2.6, and 5.9 per 100,000 in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, respectively). Drugs such as heroin and cocaine are increasingly being laced with fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, causing many drug users to consume fatal doses by mistake.

Though it's impossible to tease out what specific effect one drug had versus another used at the same time (or what other medical factors may have contributed to the deaths), better understanding these drug combinations "helps us identify potential areas of risk", Hedegaard said.

Deaths involving heroin more than tripled during this time period as did those linked to methamphetamine.

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As an example, roughly 40 per cent of people listed as dying of a cocaine overdose also had fentanyl in their system.

The authors of the new study also found that most overdoses involved more than one drug.

Cocaine-related fatalities almost doubled from 2014 to 2016, jumping from 5,892 to 11,316 overdose deaths.

-Opioids such as fentanyl, heroin, hydrocodone, methadone, morphine and oxycodone.

The report also highlights the importance for accurate reporting in the text of death certificates.

-Stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamines. Although many drug users think they are buying heroin, they don't know they're buying fentanyl.

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