Fentanyl surpasses heroin as drug most often involved in deadly overdoses

A new report highlights fentanyl's growing role in overdose deaths in the United States.

A new report highlights fentanyl's growing role in overdose deaths in the United States. According to a CDC National Vital Statistics System report, which looked at drug overdose deaths from 2011 to 2016, fentanyl is now the drug most often involved in deadly overdoses. At the beginning of the study, oxycodone was most frequently associated with overdose deaths, and then heroin took over. However by 2016, CDC found, fatal overdoses involving fentanyl—which is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine—were the most common. CDC researchers found that the rate of drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl or fentanyl analogs doubled each year from 2013 to 2016. Fentanyl was associated with 18,335 drug overdose deaths in 2016, linked to 29% of all drug overdose fatalities that year. The analysis stresses the importance of accurate reporting in the text of death certificates, though the researchers also acknowledge their findings may have been affected by improvements in reporting the particular drugs involved in fatal overdoses.