The number of deadly overdoses from fentanyl surged between 2016 and 2021, according to a disquieting new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The report, which was released on Wednesday, found that 69,943 died of a fentanyl-induced overdose in 2021 at a rate of 21.6. That is up considerably from 2016, when 18,499 died of an overdose from fentanyl at a rate of 5.7.
According to CNN, the Centers for Disease Control typically “reports overdose data by broader drug categories.”
“Fentanyl, for example, is grouped with other synthetic opioids like tramadol and nitazenes. But for Wednesday’s report, researchers took a closer look at the specific drugs that are included on death certificates for people who died of overdoses, highlighting demographic differences,” CNN reported.
Caleb Banta-Green, a research professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine’s Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute, told CNN that specifying the drug that caused the overdose is crucial for researchers.
“We need to know exactly what people are dying from so we know what services they need to stay alive,” said Banta-Green.
The report found an increase in deadly overdose from several other drugs as well.
“The age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl more than tripled over the study period, from 5.7 per 100,000 standard population in 2016 to 21.6 in 2021, with a 55.0% increase from 2019 (11.2) to 2020 (17.4), and a 24.1% increase from 2020 to 2021 (21.6). The rate of drug overdose deaths involving methamphetamine more than quadrupled, from 2.1 in 2016 to 9.6 in 2021,” the CDC reported. The rate of drug overdose deaths involving cocaine more than doubled, from 3.5 in 2016 to 7.9 per 100,000 in 2021. The rate of drug overdose deaths involving heroin decreased by 40.8%, from 4.9 in 2016 to 2.9 in 2021, although this decrease was not statistically significant. The rate of drug overdose deaths involving oxycodone decreased 21.0%, from 1.9 in 2016 to 1.5 in 2021.”
“In 2021, the age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths was highest for deaths involving fentanyl (21.6 per 100,000 standard population), followed by methamphetamine (9.6), cocaine (7.9), heroin (2.9), and oxycodone (1.5). Patterns were similar when stratified by sex,” the report continued.
The CDC said that it “analyzed literal text from the National Vital Statistics System mortality data for deaths occurring in the United States among U.S. residents.”
“From 2016 through 2021, age-adjusted drug overdose death rates involving fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cocaine increased, while drug overdose death rates involving oxycodone decreased,” the CDC reported. “In 2021, the age-adjusted death rates for males were higher than the rates for females for all drugs analyzed. Among those aged 25–64, the highest rate of drug overdose deaths involved fentanyl; although a similar pattern was observed among those aged 0–24 years and 65 and over, no significant differences were observed between the rates. Fentanyl was also the most frequent opioid or stimulant drug involved in drug overdose deaths for the race and Hispanic-origin groups analyzed.”
As CNN said, “[p]harmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid intended to help patients, such as those with cancer, manage severe pain.”
“It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and typically prescribed in the form of skin patches or lozenges. But most recent cases of fentanyl-related harm, overdose and death in the United States are linked to illegally made fentanyl, according to the CDC,” CNN reported.