Illicit Fentanyl Linked to More Than Half of US Overdose Deaths

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More than half of fentanyl-involved deaths also tested positive for other illicit drugs, such as heroin.
More than half of fentanyl-involved deaths also tested positive for other illicit drugs, such as heroin.

HealthDay News — Fentanyl was involved in more than half of opioid overdose deaths reported in the second half of 2016, according to a study published online in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Julie K. O'Donnell, PhD, from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, and colleagues used data from 10 states participating in the CDC's Enhanced State Opioid Overdose Surveillance program to describe opioid overdose deaths from July through December 2016 that tested positive for fentanyl; fentanyl analogs; or U-47700, an illicit synthetic opioid.

The researchers found that fentanyl was detected in more than half (56.3%) of the 5152 opioid overdose deaths in the 10 states.

More than half of fentanyl-involved deaths (57%) also tested positive for other illicit drugs, such as heroin. Carfentanil, furanylfentanyl, and acetylfentanyl were the fentanyl analogs identified most frequently, and fentanyl analogs were present in more than 10 percent of opioid overdose deaths in four states.

"Expanded surveillance for opioid overdoses, including testing for fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, assists in tracking the rapidly changing illicit opioid market and informing innovative interventions designed to reduce opioid overdose deaths," conclude the authors.

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Reference

O'Donnell JK, Halpin J, Mattson CL, Goldberger BA, Gladden RM. Deaths involving fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and U-47700 - 10 States, July-December 2016. MMWR. 2017; 66(43):1197-1202. 

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