Edited by André Sofair, MD, MPH, and William E. Chavey, MD, MS
The number of drug products obtained by law enforcement that tested positive for fentanyl (so-called fentanyl submissions) increased five-fold and deaths from synthetic opioids nearly doubled from 2013 to 2014, according to an MMWR study.
Annual fentanyl submissions increased from 1000 to 5300 during this period. At the same time, fentanyl prescription rates did not rise substantially. Meanwhile, in 27 states, deaths from synthetic opioids (including fentanyl but excluding methadone) increased from 3100 to 5600.
A second MMWR article spotlights two states with a surge in fentanyl use: Florida and Ohio. Fentanyl submissions increased nearly 500% in Florida and over 1000% in Ohio from 2013 to 2014. Concurrently, there was a 115% increase in fentanyl-specific deaths in Florida while Ohio had a 525% increase. Younger, white males appeared to be at higher risk.
The authors say the spike in fentanyl deaths in Florida and Ohio appears closely associated with a rise in the supply of illicitly manufactured fentanyl rather than with diverted prescription fentanyl.