Deaths Linked To Potent Opioid Fentanyl Quadrupled Over 2017

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

The influx of potent synthetic opioids into U.S. communities caused fatal overdoses linked to fentanyl to more than quadrupled over 2017 in Alaska.

Officials with the Alaska State Troopers issued the state’s annual report Wednesday investigating the impacts of illegal drugs — the investigation into illegal narcotics further deteriorated in Alaska last year. The report documented 37 deaths tied to fentanyl in 2017, a painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, up from eight recorded fentanyl deaths in 2016, reports the Associated Press.

Fentanyl is often cut into heroin supplies, but authorities warn that dealers are increasingly cutting fentanyl into cocaine as well. Officials note the state suffers from a high mortality rate, despite their population of only 740,000. (RELATED: Portman Says ‘The President Is Waiting, Pen In Hand’ For Opioid Bill Targeting Fentanyl Trafficking)

“We don’t have as many numbers,” said Capt. Michael Duxbury, according to the Associated Press. “But I don’t think that matters to anybody that lost a parent, a parent that lost a child.”

States across the country are struggling with an influx of fentanyl and other synthetic painkillers into both opioid and non-opioid drug supplies. The substance is causing drug overdose deaths to surge to record-breaking levels across Pennsylvania. Officials with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) released data Aug. 21 showing drug overdose deaths increased by 17.5 percent in Pennsylvania in 2017, claiming 5,456 lives. Roughly 42 per 100,000 people throughout the state die from a drug overdose.

An estimated 67 percent of all drug overdose deaths in the state involved fentanyl or chemical variants of the substance. DEA officials said there is “a persistent and pervasive drug threat in Pennsylvania.”

Data from the Maryland Department of Health released July 26 shows the number of fatal overdoses in the state hit a record high in 2017, killing 2,282 people.

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016, according to the CDC. Officials say preliminary data shows drug overdoses killed roughly 72,000 people across the U.S. in 2017.

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