April 27, 2016

Surge in Fentanyl-Related Deaths

According to a recent Governing article, the number of reported deaths linked to fentanyl has increased dramatically. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, in 2014 there were at least 28,000 deaths related to opioid overdoses, of which 5,554 involved fentanyl, a 79% increase from 2013. Additionally, unpublished data for the first half of 2015 indicates an even steeper increase in fentanyl-related deaths.

Fentanyl is a legal pharmaceutical used to treat severe pain. It is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.  Fentanyl is relatively cheap to produce illegally and is often mixed with heroin. Users may be unaware they are taking the drug.

A fentanyl overdose can shut down the lungs within two or three minutes. Therefore, victims are less likely to be rescued than those who overdose on other opioids. As a result of the drug’s potency, overdose victims often need multiple doses of naloxone to be revived and need immediate follow-up treatment.

Drug Enforcement Administration data has shown a twelvefold increase in law enforcement seizures of fentanyl since June 2013.