Fentanyl: A Major Culprit in Opioid Overdoses

CDC researchers find > 50% of people in 10 states who died of opioid overdoses during the second half of 2016 tested positive for fentanyl.


Researchers examined 5,152 people who died due to opioid overdose in Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Wisconsin and found that nearly 3,000 were fentanyl positive. In addition, > 700 tested positive for drugs with similar chemical structures to fentanyl, including an extremely potent analog, carfentanil, which is used to sedate large animals.

The findings are from the first report on data from the State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System (SUDORS). According to the CDC, SUDORS makes it possible to use toxicology and death scene investigation data previously unavailable across states to provide insights into specific substances and circumstances driving overdoses. That information can help pinpoint changes in the opioid epidemic and inform interventions.

Starting in late 2017, the CDC’s Enhanced State Opioid Overdose Surveillance program is funding expanded forensic toxicology testing of opioid overdose deaths to detect fentanyl analogs and other illicitly manufactured synthetic opioid drugs.

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