Drug and Alcohol - Opioid Addiction - Trends and Statistics

How Fentanyl Drives The Overdose Crisis

How Fentanyl Drives The Overdose Crisis

The nation’s fentanyl crisis has further accelerated the number of overdoses as the United States continues to deal with the COVID-19 epidemic.

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Drug and Alcohol

Opioid Addiction

Trends and Statistics

February 16, 2022

The COVID pandemic in the United States exacerbated the country's drug overdose crisis. In November 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported drug overdoses exceeded 100,000 for the first time in U.S. history.

This blog focuses on media and other reports indicating a rise in drug overdose mortality, as well as other concerns about access to evidence-based care for substance use disorders, pain patients, and harm reduction services. The data cited in the news articles and publications below comes from a variety of places, including national, state, and local public health authorities, law enforcement, emergency medical services, hospitals, treatment centers, research journals, and more.

During the COVID pandemic, every state has reported a spike or increase in overdose deaths or other concerns. 

The Start of the Epidemic

One recurring theme is that illicit fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, methamphetamine, and cocaine, frequently in combination or in contaminated forms, are now driving the epidemic. Prescription opiate and heroin overdoses are still common, and they're becoming increasingly contaminated with illicit fentanyl.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued its first public safety alert in six years, warning of an "alarming" spike in the sale of counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl, a lethal synthetic opioid fifty to one hundred times stronger than morphine. In August and September, the DEA confiscated 1.8 million counterfeit pills and arrested more than 800 suspected drug traffickers as part of a concerted effort with federal, state, and local law enforcement.

The increased supply has resulted in an increase in reports of accidental overdoses in towns and cities across the country, from California to New York, though the total number of overdoses is still unknown. The trend is part of a greater deterioration of the long-running opioid epidemic, which is being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, raising concerns about the growing threat to public health, national security, and the economy.

The recent spike in fentanyl-related deaths signals a turning point in the decades-long opioid crisis, which began in the 1990s with the widespread misuse of prescription opioids for pain management. Though government agencies have been effective in reducing overprescribing of legal opioids in recent years, the change in demand for illegal opioids like heroin and fentanyl poses a new, potentially more dangerous concern.

Combating the Epidemic

Fentanyl test strips, which are little pieces of paper that may identify the presence of fentanyl in a batch of medications, are widely regarded as an inexpensive and simple approach to saving lives, according to many health experts. Test strips, on the other hand, are not frequently utilized, in part because they are classified as illegal drug paraphernalia in several jurisdictions.

The CDC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration stated in April 2021 that states and territories could begin purchasing quick fentanyl test strips with federal funds. Arizona and Rhode Island, for example, have authorized them and are seeking to make them more available.

The FDA also approved a higher-dose form of naloxone—a medicine used to reverse opioid overdoses in emergencies—to combat more strong opioids like fentanyl in the same month, while some health experts are concerned about the marketing of a higher-dose drug.

President Biden's sweeping plan to combat the opioid problem includes spending tens of billions of dollars to bolster law enforcement operations to stem the influx of fentanyl and other illegal substances, as well as expanding prevention and treatment services. Many states curtailed financing for opioid-recovery programs last year as a result of the pandemic's financial troubles, according to addiction specialists, and recent settlements from lawsuits against drug makers like Purdue Pharma will not provide governments with enough money to address the epidemic.

What Is Causing This Crisis?

The pills are coming from criminal drug networks based in Mexico as they have ramped up their production of illicit fentanyl, including fentanyl-laced fake pills, in recent years. This synthetic opioid is easier and cheaper to produce than heroin and can be made in pill form to look like legal prescription opioids, such as Vicodin, or mixed with illegal drugs, such as cocaine.

This is why fentanyl is one of the most dangerous drugs to abuse.

Mexican drug cartels use chemicals largely manufactured in China, which was formerly the top source for fentanyl before a clampdown by Beijing. The cartels distribute these pills through their networks in the United States, often online and through social media.

Although national data is lacking, current evidence implies that drug overdose deaths in the United States are on course to reach an all-time high. The pandemic, which has left people worried and alienated, disrupted treatment and recovery programs, and contributed to an increasingly deadly illicit drug supply, is being blamed by addiction experts.

According to early death data from nine states reviewed by The Associated Press, as well as national data on emergency responses to reported opioid overdoses, 2022’s total is likely to exceed that.

Drug Deaths Are Climbing: Don’t Let Yourself Or A Loved One Become A Statistic

The Edge Treatment Center provides the necessary tools for long-term drug and alcohol recovery for you or your loved one. Drug overdose deaths in the United States are likely to continue to climb – get help for fentanyl addiction today and call (800) 778-1772.

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