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Increase in Fentanyl Drug Confiscations and Fentanyl-related Overdose Fatalities

Increase in Fentanyl Drug Confiscations and Fentanyl-related Overdose Fatalities

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are investigating recent increases in fentanyl-related unintentional overdose fatalities in multiple states across the U.S.  In light of this the CDC has issued a Health Advisory to:

  • Alert public health departments, health care providers, first responders, and medical examiners and coroners to the possibility of additional fentanyl-related unintentional overdose increases in other jurisdictions,
  • Provide recommendations for improving detection of fentanyl-related overdose outbreaks and,
  • Encourage states to expand access to naloxone and training for administering naloxone to reduce opioid overdose deaths.

Although pharmaceutical fentanyl can be diverted for misuse, most cases of fentanyl-related morbidity and mortality have been linked to illicitly manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, collectively referred to as non-pharmaceutical fentanyl (NPF).NPF is sold via illicit drug markets for its heroin-like effect and often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination product – with or without the user’s knowledge – to increase its euphoric effects. While NPF-related overdoses can be reversed with naloxone, a higher dose or multiple number of doses per overdose event may be required to revive a patient due to the high potency of NPF.

Fentanyl poses a significant danger to public health workers, first responders, and law enforcement personnel that may unwittingly come into contact with it either by absorbing through the skin or accidental inhalation of airborne powder.

In their Health Advisory, the CDC suggests the following actions in response to increases in fentanyl-related overdose deaths:

  • Improve detection of fentanyl outbreaksto facilitate effective response.
  • Expand Use of Naloxone. Naloxone is a safe and effective antidote to all opioid-related overdoses, including heroin and fentanyl, and is a critical tool in preventing fatal opioid overdoses.  Depending on state and local laws, this medication can potentially be administered effectively by EMS, law enforcement, people at high risk for overdose, or family and friend bystanders who have obtained the medication.


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