CDC warns of increasing overdoses from synthetic opioids

CDC warns of increasing overdoses from synthetic opioids
Updated: Jul. 12, 2018 at 5:57 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report shows a rising number of deaths from manufactured and mixed fentanyl.

"There's definitely been a few rashes in recent years, so we're seeing groups of people overdosing who are heroin users," said LSU Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Dr. Ross Deleonardo.

According to the CDC, these forms of fentanyl, carfentanil and methylfentanyl are 104 times more potent than fentanyl.

"Normally heroin users have a high tolerance, but when there's fentanyl in mixed with the heroin, people don't have a tolerance to that, and that's where we see a lot of overdoses and a lot of deaths," Deleonardo said.

Deleonardo says this dangerous trend is growing.

"As it becomes harder and harder to get actual heroin into the U.S, it's become easier and cheaper to get the fentanyl into the U.S., and since it basically has the same effects, as heroin, a lot of heroin is being cut with fentanyl," Deleonardo said.

He says overdose deaths overall in the state in the past year have increased by about 28 percent.

"Here in Orleans Parish, seen about 166 overdose deaths and pretty significant portions of those are related to opioid use," Deleonardo said.

It's not just the state that's being hit hard, public health professionals across the country convened in New Orleans this week to learn from each other about possible solutions to the problem.

"In Appalachia, it's been particularly difficult lately, and our city of Huntington has been fighting this epidemic with a very comprehensive approach since 2015. We've been able to turn the tide, and we've been able to improve some of the statistics," said Cabell-Huntington Health Dept. Director Michael Kilkenny.

Deleonardo says the state is trying to combat this through drug take-back days, Naloxone prescriptions, and prescription monitoring.

"I think treatment and using the resources in the community for treatment is a really important place to start," Deleonardo said.

CDC says the rate of synthetic opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. rose from 3.1 to 6.2 deaths per 100,000 between 2015 and 2016. That was the first year that synthetic opioids became the most common type of opioid in all opioid overdose deaths.

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