Fentanyl Deaths Increase at Alarming Rate
America’s drug crisis caused about 60,000 deaths last year, half of which were related to opioids. Urban areas are particularly affected by synthetic opioid fentanyl, which was originally used to treat severe pain associated with cancer. The most significant increases in fentanyl use can be seen in New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Cleveland.
Philadelphia is currently averaging 100 fentanyl overdose deaths per month, a drastic increase compared to the nine deaths recorded all year in 2012.
“Fentanyl, which can be 50 times stronger than heroin and is killing Americans at an alarming rate: 582 deaths in 2014 and 3,946 deaths in 2016—that’s a 600% increase, with projected increase still in 2017.”
“If anything can be likened to a weapon of mass destruction in what it can do to a community, it’s fentanyl,” said Michael Ferguson of the Drug Enforcement Administration. “It’s manufactured death.” Philadelphia health commissioner Thomas Farley agreed, saying he predicts fentanyl will kill more people than the AIDS epidemic.
Experts believe that one reason for this rapid increase in fentanyl usage is that people often do not know they are purchasing it, as it is often mixed in with other drugs. Last year in New Haven, Connecticut, 12 patients were treated for overdoses in just eight hours, and three of them died. All of them had thought they were using cocaine but instead had purchased fentanyl.
According to the DEA, fentanyl has become increasingly available and easy to find, often being supplied to people in the US through online orders from China and drug trafficking from Mexico.
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