Synthetic opioids have now become the most deadly form of drugs in the United States according to a report recently published by the American Medical Association. Some synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, are now killing more people than prescription opioids for the first time in US history.
Between 2010 and 2016, 46% of all drug related deaths in america were linked to some type of synthetic opioids. The cases of synthetic opioid related deaths were three time higher in 2016 than what they were in 2010. At this time 14% of deaths were related to synthetic opioids. Still in 2016, prescription drugs were responsible for 40% of opioid overdoses in the US.
“It’s certainly concerning. I think that it tracks very closely with the increased availability of illicit synthetic opioids that are coming into the US“, explained one of the researchers who worked on the report, Christopher Jones, director of the National Mental Health and Substance Use Policy Laboratory at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
According to Lindsay LaSalle, a senior staff attorney for the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance, “almost all of the increases in overdose deaths are attributed to illicitly manufactured fentanyl, not pharmaceutical fentanyl that has been misused or diverted. And we know that because the number of prescriptions for pharmaceutical fentanyl has remained relatively stable over the past decade, whereas seizures of illicitly manufactured fentanyl has skyrocketed. So it really is due to illicitly manufactured fentanyl that is entering the market and that is essentially being mixed with heroin so that you have an adulterated product that people aren’t aware of, so their risk of overdose increases substantially.”
“Synthetic opioids are significantly easier to manufacture. They’re manufactured in a lab, as opposed to fields of poppies that have to be cared for and cultivated and farmed. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl is almost exclusively made in China. It’s then shipped, broadly speaking, to Mexico, where it’s added to the heroin supply before it enters the United States as a cost-saving measure”, added LaSalle.