Fentanyl surpasses Heroin as nation's most deadly drug — CDC

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WEDNESDAY, Dec. 12, 2018 (HealthDay News) - The drugs most commonly involved in drug overdose deaths during 2011 to 2016 include fentanyl, heroin, oxycodone, and cocaine, according to the Dec. 12 issue of the National Vital Statistics Reports, a publication from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Analyzing the death certificates of cases related to drug overdose, CDC said fentanyl accounts for just 4 percent of the fatalities in 2011, the year when oxycodone was the leader. Between 2013 and 2016, overdose deaths involving fentanyl increased about 113 percent per year, researchers found. But then fentanyl, a synthetic opioid pain reliever 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, infiltrated the American drug supply - what the CDC calls "the third wave" of the opioid epidemic.

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The study also said that many people who die due to overdoses have multiple drugs in their system, "We've had a tendency to think of these drugs in isolation", Dr Holly Hedegaard, lead author of the report, told HuffPost. Almost one-third of fentanyl-related overdoses also involved heroin.

The report says methamphetamine is claiming a larger number of lives than in years past and that it's responsible for almost 11 percent of cases - up from less than 5 percent in 2011.

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After an in-depth analysis of the information, the researchers also found that certain drugs were more likely to be the cause of death in unintentional overdoses, while others were more likely to be implicated in death by suicide.

Deaths involving heroin more than tripled during this time period as did those linked to methamphetamine. "It represents an evolution of the opioid crises in which patterns have shifted to a much more potent drug, putting users at a greater risk of overdose and death", he added. It's hard to know how people get these drugs, because that data is not on death certificates, she said. Starting in 2012 and lasting until 2015, heroin surpassed painkillers to become the drug most often involved.

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"This study continues to sound the alarm that we have a long way to go to reversing the tragic trends within the opioid crisis", Kirane said.