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CDC: Synthetic Opioids, Psychostimulants Fuel Increase in Overdose Deaths

February 16, 2021

Deaths involving synthetic opioids (not including methadone) and psychostimulants skyrocketed between 2013 and 2019, with a particularly sharp jump in 2018-19, according to data published this month by CDC.

During the period studied, the overall age-adjusted rate of deaths involving synthetic opioids climbed 1,040%, with deaths involving prescription opioids and heroin increasing in the presence of synthetic opioids, but not in their absence. Psychostimulant-involved deaths, meanwhile, increased by 317% from 2013-19.

Of the 70,630 overall drug-involved deaths recorded in 2019, 70.6% involved opioids, 51.5% involved synthetic opioids and 22.9% involved psychostimulants.

While states in the East had the largest increases in synthetic opioid-involved deaths in 2015-16, it was the West that saw the largest gains from 2018 to 2019 at 67.9% year-over-year. For psychostimulants, meanwhile, the Midwest reported the largest increases in deaths from 2016 to 2017, but it was the Northeast, with a gain of 43.8%, that saw the largest such increase from 2018 to 2019.

CDC noted the increasing availability of synthetic opioids, particularly in illicit fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, and their co-use with other drugs (either deliberate or unknowingly) as a driving factor in the rise of synthetic opioid-involved deaths. The rise in psychostimulant-involved deaths was attributed to increases in potency, availability and reduced costs for methamphetamine.

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