Fentanyl linked to majority of drug overdoses in Rhode Island

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50-times more powerful than heroin, is now the primary cause of drug overdose deaths in Rhode Island, according to two studies published in The International Journal of Drug Policy.

To assess how widespread fentanyl use is in Rhode Island, researchers in the first study administered a questionnaire on opioid use to 149 individuals using illegal opioids or misusing prescription opioids in the state between January and November 2016. Among them, 121 reported known or suspected fentanyl exposure in the past year. However, the study participants did not report actively seeking out the substance.

"Most people are not asking for it," said Jennifer Carroll, PhD, lead author of the first study and an adjunct assistant professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, R.I. "They can't avoid it, and their desire to avoid it is not reducing their risk."

For the second study, researchers conducted an epidemiological investigation on the occurrence of fentanyl and nonfentanyl drug overdose deaths in Rhode Island between January 2014 and September 2016. Over the study period, fentanyl overdose deaths in the state rose 84 in 2014 to 138 deaths in the first nine months of 2016. The 138 total accounted for 55.8 percent of the drug overdose deaths reported in the state for 2016.

In nearby Massachusetts, toxicology screenings following opioid related deaths detected fentanyl in 74 percent of cases, making fentanyl the most lethal opioid in the state.

More articles on opioids: 
New bill seeks harsher penalties for synthetic opioids 
Dayton mayor files suit against physicians, drugmakers and drug distributers for role in Ohio opioid crisis 
Mystery opioid linked to dozens of overdoses, 4 deaths in Georgia

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