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Fentanyl Still Problem, Despite Better Overall Opioid Death Rate

Written by Rob Alston

& Medically Reviewed by Ashley Sutphin

Medically Reviewed

Up to Date

This article was reviewed by a medical professional to guarantee the delivery of accurate and up-to- date information. View our research policy.

Last Updated - 08/06/21

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While the general opioid overdose trends have been decreasing, fentanyl-related deaths have been climbing in Florida and other states.

There has been somewhat good news among the grim picture that’s painted of the opioid epidemic. For the first time in decades, the number of Americans who died from drug overdoses declined in 2018, following years of increases. There was around a 5% decline in overdose drug deaths nationwide. Opioids were the drugs most likely to be involved in deadly overdoses, but there was a decline in these death rates from 2017 to 2018 as well.

While this sounds like good news when faced with so many opioid deaths, there is one drug that is a growing concern: fentanyl. Fentanyl is an estimated 50 times stronger than heroin, and heroin death rates have leveled off in recent years while fentanyl deaths and synthetic opioid deaths have gone up. Synthetic opioid-related deaths went up 45% from 2016 to 2017.

Opioid Deaths in Florida

According to the Florida Medical Examiner’s Commission (MEC), Florida likewise saw a 5% decrease in drug-related deaths during the first half of 2018. There was a 13% decrease in opioid-caused deaths. However, fentanyl deaths in Florida went up by 64%. The medical examiner’s report in Florida distinguished between whether drugs were the cause of death or present at the time of death.

To be determined as a cause of death, an examiner will collect all evidence, including toxicology reports and then determine there was a causal link between the drug and the individual’s death. Of the 5,922 drug-related or caused deaths in Florida, more than 3,300 died with one or more prescription drugs in their system. According to the report, these drugs may have also been combined with illegal drugs and alcohol.

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Fentanyl and Trade with China

While the U.S. seems to be making progress against the opioid crisis, fentanyl remains the exception. There may be links between fentanyl and China, and action taken by Trump on the opioid crisis is pointing to a possible connection. Last December, as part of a deal between President Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, China agreed to designate fentanyl as a controlled substance. That was part of an effort to make harsher punishments for having fentanyl as a way to curb the flow into the U.S. President Trump has since said China hasn’t held up their end of the agreement.

Companies like FedEx and USPS have been brought into the issue as well. For example, one report shows the preferred way of shipping fentanyl to the U.S. is through the USPS because it reduces the risk of seizure by Customs and Border Protection. The USPS now says they are aggressively working on strategies to prevent fentanyl from coming into the country.

President Trump is urging other delivery companies to do more to stop the influx of fentanyl. FedEx and UPS have spoken out on the situation say they have extensive security measures in place and they closely work with authorities when necessary including in the prevention of fentanyl coming in.

Fentanyl Addiction and Treatment

If you are struggling with fentanyl addiction, help is available in Florida. Contact The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health to learn more about fentanyl addiction treatment and resources available to help you or your loved one.

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