Overdose deaths involving illicitly manufactured fentanyl “sharply” increased in Western, Southern and Midwestern states between 2019 and 2020, according to a Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) study published Tuesday.
The research determined that fentanyl-related overdose fatalities surpassed 1,800 in Western states in the second half of last year, amid the coronavirus pandemic. This amounts to an almost 94 percent increase compared to the same period in 2019.
Southern states saw more than 4,300 deaths involving fentanyl between July and December 2020, a nearly 65 percent increase compared to the second half of 2019. Fentanyl-related fatalities rose 33 percent in Midwestern states, reaching beyond 2,000 in the second half of last year.
The number of fentanyl overdose deaths in the Northeast remained relatively steady with a 3.5 percent increase from the second half of 2019 to the same period last year.
The proportions of drug overdose deaths related to fentanyl also increased “significantly” in Midwestern, Southern and Western states and stayed stable in the Northeast.
The agency said improved overdose prevention, harm reduction and response efforts are “urgently needed to address the high potency and various routes of use” for fentanyl.
The CDC noted it does not consider the research to be nationally representative since the study of monthly trends involved 29 states and D.C.
Most of the fentanyl-involved deaths between July 2019 and December 2020 occurred among men, with 56.1 percent of all victims having no pulse when first responders arrived. About 40 percent of fentanyl-related deaths also involved a stimulant, which can increase the risk of an overdose.
The report comes after the CDC released data counting a record estimated number of overdose fatalities between May 2020 and April 2021 — with deaths surpassing 100,000 for the first time in a 12-month period. About 64 percent of these fatalities involved synthetic opioids other than methadone.
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