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Fentanyl now America’s deadliest drug, federal health officials say

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Fentanyl now America’s deadliest drug, federal health officials say


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The overprescription of opioids is leveling off, but deaths continue rising, says Dr. Marc Fishman of the Maryland Treatment Centers. He talks about addiction, treatment and bootleg fentanyl with USA TODAY Editorial Page Editor Bill Sternberg.
USA TODAY

Fentanyl is now the deadliest drug in America, federal health officials announced Wednesday, with over 18,000 overdose deaths in 2016, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

It’s the first time the synthetic opioid has been the nation’s deadliest drug. For the previous four years (2012 to 2015), heroin topped the list.

On average, in each year from 2013 to 2016, the rate of overdose deaths from Fentanyl increased by about 113 percent per year. In fact, the report said that fentanyl was responsible for 29 percent of all overdose deaths in 2016, up from just 4 percent in 2011.

Overall, more than 63,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2016, according to the new report, which was prepared by the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is an average of 174 deaths per day.

The study also said that many people who die due to overdoses have multiple drugs in their system,  “We’ve had a tendency to think of these drugs in isolation,” Dr. Holly Hedegaard, lead author of the report, told HuffPost. “It’s not really what’s happening.”

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

After fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine were the deadliest drugs in 2016. After declines earlier in the decade, the report said that overdose deaths from both cocaine and methamphetamine were starting to rise again.

The study said that illegal drugs such as fentanyl and heroin were the primary causes of unintentional overdoses, while prescription drugs such as oxycodone tended to be used in suicide overdoses.

More: Opioid crisis: DEA data show spike in deaths led by prescription drugs, heroin and synthetics such as fentanyl

More: She reported on the opioid epidemic for years. Then, her daughter died of an overdose

 

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