Fentanyl overdose deaths increasing across US

Health

(NewsNation) — The fentanyl crisis in the U.S. is getting worse, with overdose deaths from the drug rising rapidly in states like Colorado.

The Denver Post reports that the age-adjusted rate of overdose deaths has almost doubled in four years. In 2018, there were 16.5 deaths per 100,000 residents, compared to 31.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2021. States like New York and Wisconsin recently put out public health alerts on fentanyl because of increasing overdoses. Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services said provisional data shows fentanyl overdose deaths in the state grew by 97% in 2019 to 2021, going up from 651 to 1,280.

Nationally, fentanyl deaths increased more than 56% from 2019 to 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Overall, more than 100,000 people died in the U.S. from an overdose, about a 15% increase from the previous year, according to The White House.

Dr. James Besante, director of the Carle Substance Use Disorders Leadership Center, said people don’t always know they’re ingesting fentanyl when they take a substance.

Fentanyl tablets can be pressed in certain colors with insignias on them that make them easily mistaken for club drugs like ecstasy, Besante explained on NewsNation’s “Morning in America.”

To combat this issue, access to treatment needs to be expanded, Besante said.

There are drugs that can help with opioid use, such as buprenorphine or methadone, which are associated with a 76% reduction in overdose in three months.

“Unfortunately, many individuals do not have access to these medications,” Besante said.

Other opioid treatment programs are out of many Americans’ reach as well, Besante said, with the gap being the greatest in rural communities.

“Part of talking about the overdose epidemic here in the United States of America is understanding that it doesn’t affect all communities equally,” he said.

Still, there are resources out there for those who need it, Besante said.

For those who suspect substance abuse in a loved one, Besante said it is important to keep the lines of communication open.

“More importantly, reach out for help,” he said. “Never worry alone, ask for the help of an addictionologist or a trusted health care professional.”

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