The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are reporting illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF), as opposed to pharmaceutical fentanyl, is the main driver of the recent increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids (other than methadone).

From 2010 to 2015, annual overdose deaths involving opioids in the U.S. increased by nearly 57 percent, with a notable rise in deaths attributed to synthetic opioids, which are opioids made from chemicals in a lab, such as fentanyl, tramadol and Demerol. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. 

The number of synthetic opioid overdose deaths increased from 3,007 to 9,580, an increase of 219 percent. The report said this trend has disproportionately affected states in the Midwest and Eastern regions of the U.S. 

Although prescription rates have fallen, the report said overdoses associated with fentanyl have risen dramatically. 

The national rate of synthetic opioid overdose deaths was at or below 1 per 100,000 from 2010 through 2013, then more than tripled from 2013 to 2015, reaching 3.1 per 100,000.

Within the report, data is examined from Prescription Behavior Surveillance System states, including West Virginia. 

From 2010 through 2013, West Virginia’s rate of drug deaths involving synthetic opioids was between five and six per 100,000 residents. However, the rate increased to seven in 2014, and jumped to nearly 13 in 2015.

The number of reported law enforcement exhibits testing positive for fentanyl in West Virginia also increased in the last two years.

“Increasing numbers of synthetic opioid overdose deaths in state with increasing levels of fentanyl drug reports highlights the need for the close collaboration between public health and public safety in order to optimize the response to the ongoing opioid overdose epidemic,” the report said. 

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