A new report shows a rise in drug overdose deaths from fentanyl, methamphetamine and cocaine.
The death rate for fentanyl overdoses ballooned nearly 280% over a 6-year period, according to the report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The rate of drug overdose deaths involving methamphetamine more than quadrupled, and the rate of drug overdose deaths involving cocaine more than doubled.
But the data used in the report is somewhat dated, covering 2016 to 2021.
The data always lags, making it hard to get a clear picture of how mitigation efforts are impacting the overdose epidemic, according to Justin Phillips, founder of Overdose Lifeline in Indiana.
But she’s hopeful that some more recent efforts are making a difference.
A national online dashboard that tracks nonfatal overdoses, considered a leading predictor for future fatal overdoses, debuted in December.
And the over-the-counter sale of naloxone, an overdose antidote, got Food and Drug Administration approval in March.
Still, Phillips said we’re trying to play catch-up in the race to save lives.
“Fentanyl is the biggest problem in this crisis,”
Fentanyl, a man-made opioid, is 50 times more potent than heroin and can be deadly in very small amounts.
Authorities say other street drugs and fake prescription pills get laced with fentanyl, often without the user realizing it, because fentanyl produces a cheap high.
“It’s being found in almost every substance individuals are using illicitly,”
Federal authorities said in December that they seized “enough deadly doses of fentanyl to kill every American.”
Agents took over 50.6 million fentanyl-laced, fake prescription pills and more than 10,000 pounds of fentanyl powder off the streets in 2022, the Drug Enforcement Administration said at the time.
The DEA said that was more than double the amount of fentanyl-laced, fake prescription pills it had seized in 2021.
Phillips said we need to embrace “harm reduction as a public health approach” in order to save more lives.
“(Harm reduction) is an approach that we take as it relates to legal and illegal behaviors every day, right? So, harm reduction is wearing your seat belt. Harm reduction is wearing your bike helmet, and it’s never about giving people permission to be irresponsible, It’s just about reducing the consequences should something go wrong.”