The National Center for Health Statistics released data showing a massive spike in fentanyl overdose deaths. Based on the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 100,300 Americans died of drug overdoses from May 2020 to April 2021. These numbers are provisional, unofficial numbers and, unfortunately, the true numbers may actually be higher, as it can take several months before investigations and data become final.
The overdose crisis is a national disaster with disproportional consequences, driven by an influx of fentanyl coming through our borders, resulting in a never-before-seen human tragedy. Unfortunately, available evidence shows the future is not looking much better and, in reality, actually appears to be much grimmer.
Officials believe the main drivers fueling this overdose crisis is the increasing predominance of the deadly fentanyl strain in the illicit drug supply and the COVID-19 pandemic effects. During quarantine, many people already struggling with substance use became increasingly socially isolated and unable to seek help.
Additionally, a large part of our society also struggles with mental illness and, although not mentioned in these studies, they experienced the same isolating effects of COVID-19 and subsequent inability to receive the medical and therapeutic attention they so desperately needed. Unfortunately, many people found themselves drowning in emotional pain and desperately seeking relief of any kind, thus creating a perfect opportunity for drug dealers to flood our streets with substances often used to self-medicate, such as fentanyl and fentanyl analogues.
Countrywide Spike in Drug Overdose Deaths
The United States Sentencing Commission reports that fentanyl abuse has become dangerous and widespread in current years because of the dominant appearance of substances chemically or pharmacologically similar to fentanyl classified as analogues.
The majority of these drugs are trafficked into the United States through Mexico, along the Southwest border, by pedestrians, private vehicles, and commercial vehicles under the direction of Mexican cartels. However, the purest and most potent forms of fentanyl enter the United States through international airports, within international mail facilities, and express consignment couriers.
The most recent CDC data on overdose deaths reveal that the USA’s highest overdose death rates in history took place in the 12 months prior to April 2021, with the highest rates occurring in the following states:
- California +47.8%
- Oregon +45%
- Alaska +46.7%
- Kansas +45.7%
- Louisiana +51.6%
- Mississippi +49.9%
- Tennessee +50.1%
- Kentucky +54.5%
- South Carolina +45.4%
- West Virginia +62.2%
- Vermont +69.9%
The primary reason for this spike in the drug overdose crisis is the influx of illicit fentanyl, a highly lethal opioid that dealers are currently mixing with other drugs — one of the reasons why deaths from methamphetamines and cocaine are also on the rise. The DEA recently warned citizens of a significant increase in fake prescription pills, including opioids and benzodiazepines containing fentanyl.
The city of Las Vegas has also been hit hard by fentanyl overdoses, with Southern Nevada Health District recording 160 overdose deaths from January through August of 2021, putting this region on pace to surpass the 193 fentanyl deaths recorded in 2020.
What’s Driving the Fentanyl Crisis?
Nearly 75% of overdose deaths were the result of fentanyl and related synthetic opioids, which can be lethal even when taken in very low doses. This week, President Biden released a statement mourning the lives of over 100,000 Americans who died last year from drug overdoses — however, he failed to mention China’s leading role in exporting fentanyl, which has dramatically fueled this crisis.
Mexican cartels use chemicals manufactured in China to mass-produce and distribute fentanyl and meth across the USA, reports a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) administrator. Just this year, the DEA has seized over 12,000 pounds of fentanyl. It is important to note that this number does not include, or consider, the quantity of fentanyl that was successfully smuggled into our country. Based on the continued rise in illicit fentanyl and the incomprehensible number of fatal overdoses, that amount currently smuggled into this country must be considerable.
As the crisis keeps evolving and people continue to die in gruesome numbers, large quantities of fentanyl are being produced in Sinaloa, with the sole intention being to smuggle it into the United States. This situation is simply unacceptable, and an unprecedented and stern response is immediately needed.
Fentanyl Overdose Effects and Treatment
Increasing concentrations of fentanyl in the blood causes sedation, a slower respiratory rate and, more importantly, increased respiratory
Acidosis, a condition that causes an inability of the lungs to expel CO2 adequately. Eventually, acidosis and oxygen deprivation lead to possible cardiac arrhythmias, brain injuries, and even death.
Overdoses not resulting in death often require resuscitation by first responders and further hospitalization for the user. A fentanyl overdose is usually reversed with the use of Narcan (naloxone) and, while one or two doses of naloxone may be sufficient for a heroin overdose, multiple doses may be required for fentanyl and its analogues.
Most fentanyl overdoses are preventable. Last year, more people died from fentanyl overdose than passed due to car crashes, guns, and even flu and pneumonia, which is an absurd reality. The consequences of this crisis are detrimental to our society and will have adverse effects for generations to come. We need to create public awareness programs and organizations solely dedicated to education about the dangers of illicit fentanyl. We, as Americans, have the means and knowledge to save lives; all we need now is the right priorities and unified determination.
- AP News: US overdose deaths topped 100,000 in one year, officials say
- United States Sentencing Commission: Fentanyl and Fentanyl Analogues Federal Trends and Trafficking Patterns
- CDC: National Center for Health Statistics
- VSRR Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts
- DEA Releases 2020 National Drug Threat Assessment
- FOX News: Tucker Carlson Tonight
Reviewed by Clare Waismann, Registered Addiction Specialist (RAS), Substance Use Disorder Certified Counselor (SUDCC), founder of Waismann Method® Advanced Treatment for Opiate Dependence
All topics for the Opiates.com blog are selected and written based on high standards of editorial quality, including cited sources. Articles are reviewed by Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC, and for accuracy, credibility, and relevancy to the audience. Clare Waismann is an authority and expert on opioid dependence, opioid use disorder, substance dependence, detoxification treatments, detox recovery, and other topics covered on Opiates.com. Some articles are additionally reviewed by one of Waismann Method’s specialists or third-party sources, depending on their field of expertise. For additional information and disclaimers regarding third-party sources and content for informational purposes only, please see our Terms of Service.
Last Updated on