- 2020 Fentanyl Overdose Risk Factors
- Fentanyl-Related Deaths By Demographic
- Treatment Options For Fentanyl Overdose
In 2020, there were approximately 56,500 drug overdose deaths related to synthetic opioids among United States citizens. Almost all synthetic opioids are variations on fentanyl, with the exception of methadone. Fentanyl contributed to virtually all of these fatal overdoses in 2020.
Prior to 2020, the number of drug overdose deaths related to opioids were on the decline. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic coincided with a spike in non-fatal and fatal overdoses.
2020 Fentanyl Overdose Risk Factors
Fentanyl is a synthetic prescription opioid that was created for chronic and severe pain relief in patients suffering from cancer. It can be up to 100 times stronger than morphine, a potentially habit-forming opiate.
Fentanyl can cause stronger side effects, such as sedation and numbness, than natural and semi-synthetic opioids. Its potential for long-term drug abuse, physical dependence, and opioid use disorder is also significant.
Fentanyl is commonly found in the illicit drug market. It can be added to heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, psychostimulants, and other drugs. Some people who buy illicit drugs may be taking fentanyl without knowing, increasing their risk of an overdose.
In a 12-month period spanning from April 2020 to April 2021, the total drug overdose death rate spiked, synonymous with the onset of COVID-19. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, drug overdose death counts had stabilized each previous year since 2016.
The spike in overdose deaths that coincided with the novel coronavirus may be a result of decreased medical supervision and downward trends in mental health. More people might have turned to substance abuse or illicit drug use as a coping mechanism.
Fatalities attributed to fentanyl have gradually increased each year since 1999. Fentanyl contributed to more than 80% of all opioid overdose fatalities in 2020, compared to only 10% of all opioid fatalities in 1999. Fentanyl is now a central factor in the ongoing opioid epidemic.
Fentanyl-Related Deaths By Demographic
Opioid overdose deaths were the most common drug type that caused overdoses in 2020, at over 75% of all overdose deaths.
By ethnicity, drug overdose death rates were highest among whites and African-Americans. Rates among Hispanic, Pacific Islander, Asian, and American Indian or Alaska natives were significantly lower. Fentanyl may affect specific demographics similarly to overall overdose numbers.
Adults in the 25-44 age group comprised over 44,000 drug overdose deaths in 2020, the largest percentage of any age group.
Treatment Options For Fentanyl Overdose
A fentanyl overdose can be reversed with naloxone. Naloxone is a nasal spray that restores breathing and stabilizes an overdose victim while medical help arrives. Naloxone can save the life of an overdose victim, but it may not address the underlying substance use disorder.
Opioid Use Disorder Treatment
To improve a patient’s outlook and reduce the chance of future health risks, an opioid addiction treatment program may be recommended. Behavioral therapy, methadone and buprenorphine, and mental health services may be utilized to teach patients alternatives to drug abuse.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Data Brief 428. Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999–2020
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Drug Overdose Deaths in the U.S. Top 100,000 Annually
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Notes from the Field: Increased Incidence of Fentanyl-Related Deaths Involving Para-fluorofentanyl or Metonitazene — Knox County, Tennessee, November 2020–August 2021
- Drug Enforcement Administration — Fentanyl
Northeast Addition Editorial Team
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