More Overdoses Caused by Synthetic Opioids Than Prescriptions

According to a new report published in JAMA, overdoses caused by synthetic opioids outnumbered overdoses from prescription opioids between 2010 and 2016.


As the opioid crisis continues to ravage the United States from coast to coast, the number of overdoses caused by synthetic opioids has outpaced the number of overdoses caused by prescription opioids.

According to a new report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), an analysis of available mortality data taken from death certificates recorded in the National Vital Statistics System between 2010 and 2016. According to the information yielded by the analysis, 40 percent of the fatal overdoses examined were caused by prescription opioids, while 46 percent were caused by overdose on synthetic opioids.

One of the drugs thought to bear the brunt of the responsibility for the increase in the number of overdoses is fentanyl. Fentanyl is commonly considered to be somewhere between fifty and one hundred times as potent as heroin.

While fentanyl may be obtained legally through a doctor’s prescription, it is often manufactured illegally and distributed through the black market. In fact, an announcement from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in November 2017 stated that there was a shortage of legally available fentanyl even as the amount of illicit fentanyl flooding the streets continued to increase.

According to authorities, the majority of the fentanyl which floods the streets on the United States originates in illegal laboratories overseas, including in China. Authorities claim that the fentanyl is often shipped to Mexico, where it is added to heroin to reduce costs.

Because of how potent fentanyl is when compared with heroin and other opioids, an unsuspecting person is at increased risk of overdose when they mistake the synthetic opioid for heroin or another substance. This creates a problem because the person may take their dosage for heroin and end up overdosing as a result.

For those who overdose on fentanyl, the best possible option in the moment is often naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug which reverse the effects of an overdose, potentially saving lives and providing the opportunity for the individual who overdosed to seek adequate addiction recovery treatment.