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Dr. Emily Einstein Speaking: The data we used for this analysis was derived from the CDC-wonder database, which collects all of the cause of death data that is reported on a county level from across the United States.
Each death is coded for its underlying cause of death, so for the purpose of this analysis we used two drug overdose deaths.
The general finding of this paper is that there's been a significant increase in the involvement of illicit synthetic opioids in drug overdose deaths.
Fentanyl has recently made its way into the marketplace because it's such a potent synthetic opioid, so a very small amount of fentanyl can provide the same number of highs.
If a dealer is parceling out the drug to be sold for an opioid user it's a very fast onset high and so it's very rewarding, it's also incredibly dangerous for that same reason.
Its potency causes it to suppress respiration very quickly and sometimes people will overdose with the needle still in their arm.
We had been very focused on the threat of prescription opioid overdose death and this paper shows us that we need to remain vigilant about the ever-shifting nature of this crisis.
So, just over the period from 2010 to 2016 there's been a huge increase in the involvement of these illicit synthetic opioids and we need to continue to pay attention to the source of the threat as this opioid crisis involves.