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Dr. Wilson Compton speaking: Of the 42,000 overdose deaths reported in our country in 2016 about 19,000 of them were related to fentanyl.
So, almost half of them were related to fentanyl.
We also see that prescription opioids were related to the deaths in about 15,000 and heroin in about 17,000.
You'll notice that those numbers add up to more than 42,000.
So if you take the fentanyl deaths the heroin deaths and the prescription opioid deaths that adds up to a much larger number but that's because there's a lot of overlap so people using one of these substances frequently have another of them found in their system.
We're seeing fentanyl being included in cocaine, we're seeing it included in methamphetamine, we're seeing it included in many classes of drugs sold on the street and so this toxic poison is now being seen both in fake pills as well as in the powders that are sold on the street - almost no matter what type of drug people think they're getting.
One of the biggest challenges for getting accurate counts to these deaths is the complete testing of the drug specimens.
So we need to encourage medical examiner's, coroners and the others doing the death evaluations to do a complete laboratory evaluation.
We've seen an improvement over the last five years but it's still about 15 percent of the death certificates don't specify what drug was involved.
It does mean that the numbers that we record for deaths related to opioids in general, or fentanyl, in particular, are certainly underestimated.