Fentanyl-related deaths rising at alarming rate, says DEA

The synthetic opioid fentanyl, which is about 50 times more potent than morphine, is contributing to drug overdose deaths in America at an alarming rate, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration's 2016 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary.

According to the DEA report, law enforcement agencies approximately 167 kilograms of illicit fentanyl across the United States in 2015, representing an all-time high. Deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl increased by 79 percent from 2013 to 2014, jumping from 3,097 deaths to 5,544.

"Sadly, this report reconfirms that opioids such as heroin and fentanyl — and diverted prescription pain pills — are killing people in this country at a horrifying rate," said Chuck Rosenberg, the acting administrator of the DEA. "We face a public health crisis of historic proportions. Countering it requires a comprehensive approach that includes law enforcement, education, and treatment."

Illicit fentanyl is often smuggled into the U.S. after being manufactured in foreign countries. It can be pressed into pills and sold as counterfeit oxycodone prescriptions, which can result in overdoses among unsuspecting users. Recently, fentanyl-laced heroin has contributed to a wave of overdose deaths across the nation.

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