Chart of the Day: Exploding Fentanyl Overdose Deaths By the Numbers

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The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collects information on deaths involving drugs commonly associated with fatal overdose. Aside from the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States is also dealing with another national health crisis, one that has been going on for years and is only getting worse. The opioid crisis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released preliminary data showing that US drug overdose deaths climbed to 107,622 in 2021, surpassing 100,000 for the first time in a calendar year. Compared to 2019, when overdose deaths were already historically high, drug fatalities surged by nearly 50 percent, exacerbating what had already been the worst drug crisis in US history.

Fentanyl is up to 50 times more potent than heroin, and due to its low price, it is often used to lace other drugs, which makes it especially dangerous. According to the CDC’s latest data, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl were involved in two out of three overdose deaths last year. See this in the chart below and learn more here and here.

A company that processes drug tests has detected a ninefold rise in fentanyl use in the western US these past three years – showing the powerful opioid has now cast its deadly shadow across the whole country.

Eric Dawson, the vice president of clinical affairs at Millennium Health, said his researchers had seen a 146 percent increase in the number of positive fentanyl tests nationwide between 2019 and 2022. The biggest rises were seen along the Pacific coast and mountain regions, which respectively saw 900 percent and 875 percent increases in detections of the powerful synthetic opioid.

Fentanyl has exploded out west, it’s caught up with the rest of the country, and the country is now blanketed in fentanyl. Scenes of fentanyl-addled mayhem are common on the streets of western cities like San Francisco and Portland, but the research shows that even towns and rural and mountain areas have also been badly hit. See the areas of the US that are exploding the most with fentanyl use in the pictorial map below and learn more here.

Currently, China remains the primary source of fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances trafficked through international mail and express consignment operations environment, as well as the main source for all fentanyl-related substances trafficked into the US. The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) released its “Narcotic Drugs 2021″ publication, presenting the latest consolidated global data on narcotic drug production and use for medical and scientific purposes, including for pain relief. See below the chart on the worldwide distribution of fentanyl.

Below is a good video overview of what is going on inside the fentanyl crisis in America from Brut Media. Learn more here.

As the above video explains, there are two driving elements to the recent fentanyl crisis. The drug is cheap, and access to it is readily available. Many people become addicted to prescription opioids and turn to illicit drugs, such as heroin and fentanyl, when their prescriptions run out. The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a role in the fentanyl crisis. The pandemic has increased stress, anxiety, and isolation, exacerbating drug use and addiction.

Today the Biden administration seems impotent to do much about the problem. The lack of control at the southern border and some tough talk with China, the primary producer of fentanyl, is not working as the crisis merely grows.

See more Chart of the Day posts.

By Tom Williams

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