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Federal health officials have released a new report that suggests more than 72,000 people died from drug overdoses in the United States last year, indicating the opioid epidemic across the nation has largely contributed to a two fold increase in overdose deaths over the past decade.
The new drug overdose report was released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this month, highlighting the finding that the number of deaths due to drug use in 2017 was up nearly seven percent when compared to 2016, and has doubled in the last 10 years.
Researchers found the number of opioid related drug overdoses was the largest contributor of the roughly 72,000 fatalities recorded in 2017, accounting for 49,068 deaths. The type of drugs included in the opioid related drug overdoses involve pain killers, heroin, and various other type of both synthetic and non-synthetic opioids.
Officials noted they are seeing an upward trend in the amount of opioid related deaths annually. More than 49,000 people died from opioid-related overdoses in 2017, which is about 7,000 more than the 42,000 recorded in 2016 alone.
The rising death rates largely involve fentanyl, a powerful opioid, and synthetic street fentanyl, including carfentanil, which is largely believed to be the root cause for the 30 percent increase in opioid related drug overdoses from 2015 to 2016.
Although fentanyl has been used in the medical practice for decades, it has been more commonly used through the field over the last decade as a pain medication and mixed with other drugs for anesthesia. In 2017, fentanyl was the most widely used synthetic opioid in medicine, and even made the World Health Organizations List of Essential Medicines.
Synthetic fentanyl is much more powerful and dangerous. Carfentanil is 100 times more powerful than fentanyl and 3-methylfentanyl is four times as powerful. These powerful synthetic street drugs are often cut into heroin and cocaine, making drug use much more lethal.
Over the past decade, an opioid abuse and overdose epidemic has emerged in the United States, which continues to kill more people each year. Officials say more than half of all opioid overdose deaths are caused by synthetic forms of opioids.
In July, the CDC issued an emergency preparedness and response alert, indicating the drastic rise in synthetic opioid overdoses has left first responders with limited supplies to counter act the drugs adverse health effects.
Officials state that it is important to recognize that while the opioid crisis across the United States is apparent, other street drugs such as cocaine were found to have a 3.5-fold increase in overdose fatalities, when comparing 4,312 recorded in 2010 to 14,556 in 2017.
The CDC reports nearly 440,000 people died from unintentional drug overdoses from 1999 to 2015. Researchers indicate this is an increase in opioid-related overdose deaths of more than 400%, and some experts believe that opioid overdoses are severely underreported nationwide.