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Synthetic Opioids Cause More Overdose Deaths Than Prescription Opioids

In 2016, opioid overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids surpassed those involving prescription opioids. The LA Times reported that there were a total of 42,249 overdose deaths from opioids. Over 19,000 of those were from synthetic opioids, over 17,000 were from prescription opioids, and over 15,000 were from heroin (some cases involved more than one type of drug). That means 46% of all opioid deaths were due to synthetic opioids, as opposed to 40% from prescription opioids. 

In 2015 there were more opioid overdose deaths from prescription opioids than synthetic. However, there was a shift and the overdose deaths from synthetic opioids doubled between 2015 and 2016. According to Emily Einstein, of the of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug enforcers have been hyper focused on prescription opioids, when in more recent years the biggest threat has been the rise in synthetic opioids.

The increase in drug overdose deaths in the United States is largely due synthetic opioids, like the most common synthetic opioid, illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF). “IMF is mixed into counterfeit opioid and benzodiazepine pills, heroin, and cocaine, likely contributing to increases in overdoses involving these other substances,” according to the CDC. Fentanyl is extremely dangerous because the effects are active at much lower doses.


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