If you’ve had any doubt that America is in the throes of an opioid epidemic, perhaps a new report (report or account is an informational work, such as writing, speech, television or film, made with the intention of relaying information or recounting events in a presentable form) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will hit the point home.
According to the agency’s latest Morbidity and Mortality report, more than half (half is the irreducible fraction resulting from dividing one by two (1⁄2), or the fraction resulting from dividing any number by its double) the opioid overdose deaths in 10 states (may refer to) involved the synthetic drug fentanyl.
The CDC’s report [PDF] looked at opioid (are substances that act on opioid receptors to produce morphine-like effects) overdose deaths during July–Dec. 2016 that tested positive (is a property of positivity and may refer to) for fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, or U-47700, an illicit synthetic opioid, in 10 states participating in its Enhanced State Opioid Overdose (term drug overdose (or simply overdose or OD) describes the ingestion or application of a drug or other substance in quantities greater than are recommended or generally practiced) Surveillance (ESOOS) program. It found that Fentanyl (also known as fentanil, is an opioid which is used as a pain medication and together with other medications for anesthesia) was involved in more than 50% of opioid overdose deaths in those states.
What is fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic (synthetic is an artificial material produced by organic chemical synthesis) opioid 50–100 times more potent than morphine; however, as the CDC notes, “estimates of relative potency (may refer to: Potency (pharmacology), a measure of the activity of a drug in a biological system Virility Potency (stem cell) is a measure of the differentiation potential of stem cells Cell) have some uncertainty because illicit fentanyl analog potency has not been evaluated in humans.” Its analogs are similar chemically, but aren’t routinely detected because specialized toxicology testing is required.
Fentanyl and similar substances are “highly potent and fast-acting synthetic compounds that can trigger rapid progression to loss of consciousness and death and thus might require immediate treatment and high doses of naloxone,” the CDC explains.
A preliminary estimate by the CDC calculated that U.S. overdose deaths (is the cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living organism) exceeded 60,000 last year, and “were partially driven by a fivefold increase in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids (excluding methadone).” There were 20,000 overdose deaths linked to opioids in 2016, more than six times the number of deaths (3,105) in this category in 2013.
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And of the opioid overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids and their analogs, over half also tested positive for other illicit drugs (drug is any substance (other than food that provides nutritional support) that, when inhaled, injected, smoked, consumed, absorbed via a patch on the skin, or dissolved under the tongue causes a) like heroin.
“Increasing mixing or co-use of fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl analogs might (may refer to: might, one of the English modal verbs “Might”, a song by Modest Mouse from their 1996 album This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About Might magazine, a magazine) contribute to increased overdose risk, because users are exposed to drug products (may refer to) that vary substantially in potency, and that include some extremely potent products,” the report notes.
It’s worth noting that almost half overdose deaths involving fentanyl and fentanyl analogs didn’t test positive for other illicit opioids, “suggesting that fentanyl and fentanyl analogs might be emerging as unique illicit products,” says the CDC.
The finding that manufactured fentanyl is now a “major driver of opioid deaths in multiple states”and that its analogs are increasingly showing up as well, raises concern that “in the near future, fentanyl analog overdose deaths might mirror the rapidly rising trajectory of fentanyl overdose deaths that began in 2013 and become a major factor in opioid overdose deaths.”
In light of these numbers, the agency suggests that surveillance for opioid overdoses “needs to expand to track the rapidly changing illicit opioid market.”
To that end, the agency (may refer to: A governmental or other institution The abstract principle that autonomous beings, agents, are capable of acting by themselves; see autonomy) says it expanded ESOOS to 32 states and the District of Columbia in 2017 and added funding for all 33 recipients to improve forensic toxicologic testing of opioid overdose deaths to include capacity to test for a wider range of fentanyl analogs (or analogue may refer to: Analogue (literature), a literary work that shares motifs, characters or events with another, but is not directly derived from it Analog, a thing from which an analogy is).