Cocaine Users Are Increasingly Dying From Fentanyl Overdoses Across Massachusetts

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Officials in Massachusetts are warning of the increased risk of fatally overdosing on cocaine due to the widespread presence of fentanyl in drug supplies throughout the state.

The deadly synthetic opioid is now more commonly linked to deaths involving cocaine or anti-anxiety medications than cases involving heroin. A recent report issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health reveals fentanyl was present in 90 percent of all fatal opioid overdoses over the first half of 2018, reported Mass Live.

Roughly 43 percent of fatal opioid overdoses in the state also involved cocaine, while 34 percent involved heroin. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued a public advisory on Aug. 24 over the increased presence of fentanyl in cocaine supplies, fearing users of non-opioid drugs are unaware of the lurking threat. (RELATED: CDC Warns Of ‘Dramatic Rise’ In Synthetic Opioid Deaths Over 2017)

“This quarterly report provides a new level of data revealing an unsettling correlation between high levels of synthetic fentanyl present in toxicology reports and overdose death rates,” said Massachusetts GOP Gov. Charlie Baker, according to Mass Live. “It is critically important that the Commonwealth understand and study this information so we can better respond to this disease and help more people.”

Overdoses involving benzodiazepines, medications prescribed for anxiety disorders, are also increasing due to the influx of fentanyl. Roughly 42 percent of opioid-related deaths involved anti-anxiety medications over the first two quarters of 2018. Prescription opioids were only involved in roughly 19 percent of opioid-linked fatalities over the same period.

Cocaine is increasingly being linked to drug overdose deaths throughout the U.S. due to dealers cutting supplies with synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Cocaine deaths spiked by 52 percent nationally between 2015 and 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, following many years of relatively stable numbers.

Officials estimate the substance is killing roughly 13,000 Americans each year, up from 6,700 in 2015.

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under the age of 50. Officials with the CDC estimate drug overdoses killed roughly 72,000 people across the U.S. in 2017, exceeding the annual death toll from car crashes and guns.

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