News from the FDA/CDC

Synthetic opioids drive increase in overdose deaths



Opioid-related drug overdose deaths jumped 28% from 2015 to 2016, with the largest increase coming from synthetic opioids, such as illicitly manufactured fentanyl, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The age-adjusted death rate for opioid overdoses increased from 10.4 per 100,000 population in 2015 to 13.3 per 100,000 in 2016, and the 42,249 opioid deaths in 2016 represented more than 66% of all overdose deaths that year, Puja Seth, PhD, and her associates at the CDC reported in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Age-adjusted rates of drug overdose deaths, 2015 and 2016
Increases in 2016 “primarily were driven by deaths involving synthetic opioids” other than methadone, such as fentanyl and tramadol, which saw a doubling of their death rate, from 3.1 per 100,000 in 2015 to 6.2. The death rate from heroin overdoses increased 19.5%, from 4.1 per 100,000 to 4.9, and the prescription-opioid death rate rose 10.6% from 4.7 per 100,000 to 5.2, the investigators said.

Illegally manufactured fentanyl “is now being mixed into counterfeit opioid and benzodiazepine pills, heroin, and cocaine, likely contributing to increases in overdose death rates involving other substances,” they wrote. To illustrate that point, they reported that cocaine overdose deaths increased 52.4% from 2.1 per 100,000 in 2015 to 3.2 in 2016. The death rate for the other drug category covered in the report – psychostimulants with abuse potential – climbed from 1.8 per 100,000 in 2015 to 2.4 in 2016, for an increase of 33.3%, Dr. Seth and her associates noted.

Data presented from 31 states and the District of Columbia show that “no area of the United States is exempt from th

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