Fentanyl overdose deaths soared after 2013, new federal data shows

Drug overdose deaths linked to fentanyl saw a sharp rise from 2013 through 2016, doubling each year, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While the number of fentanyl-related overdose deaths was roughly the same, slightly more than 1,600, in 2011 and 2012, they rose to nearly 2,000 in 2013 and by 2016 had reached 18,335, the CDC said. The year 2016 was the latest year analyzed in the data.

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Death certificates citing an overdose mentioned fentanyl more than any other drugs. Often, fentanyl was found along with heroin or cocaine.

By 2016, the fentanyl-related overdose rate for men was 2.8 times that for women, the CDC found.

The overdose rate was highest among people between the ages of 25 and 34, followed by people between 35 and 44.

The major race and ethnic groups all saw a rise in fentanyl-linked overdose deaths. Blacks saw the largest annual percentage increase from 2011 to 2016, followed by Latinos. Rates for whites were larger than for other groups in the same period.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Phoenix Division shows some of the 30,000 fentanyl pills the agency seized in one of its bigger busts, in Tempe, Ariz., in August, 2017. The picture shows just one of four plastic containers that were stuffed with the tablets. (Drug Enforcement Administration via AP)

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Phoenix Division shows some of the 30,000 fentanyl pills the agency seized in one of its bigger busts, in Tempe, Ariz., in August, 2017. The picture shows just one of four plastic containers that were stuffed with the tablets. (Drug Enforcement Administration via AP)

Regionally, the East Coast and upper Midwest were the most affected.

The latest report comes on the heels of an analysis by two public health nonprofits, Trust for America’s Health and the Well Being Trust, that showed that the number of deaths in 2017 from drugs, suicide and alcohol reached the highest number since such data started being compiled in 1999.

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Fentanyl is at least 50 times more potent than heroin and increasingly is mixed into other drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and even black-market-manufactured painkillers.

Increasingly, fentanyl is being found in tablets that are manufactured in primitive conditions with pill presses purchased online.

Other CDC studies have showed that fatalities involving fentanyl accounted for some 28,000 of about 70,000 overdose deaths of all kinds in 2017.