There's a nationwide overdose epidemic for fentanyl, the synthetic opioid that reportedly killed Prince, according to a new article put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 2013 to 2014, there was a 426 percent increase in fentanyl submissions—"Drug products obtained by law enforcement that tested positive for fentanyl." During this same period, there was a 79 percent increase in overdose deaths because of synthetic opioids.
Out of the 27 states studied for the findings, the CDC identified eight states as "high-burden": Ohio, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Florida, Maine, and North Carolina. The fentanyl death rate in these high-burden states increased by 174 percent from 2013 to 2014, with the biggest increases coming in the 15 to 24 age group rate (347 percent) and the 25 to 34 age group (248 percent).
DEA spokesperson Russ Baer spoke about the "deadly" nature of fentanyl, telling BuzzFeed News, "There is no quality control on these pills. One pill might have 1 milligram, and another will have 3 milligrams, and be deadly."
As CNN noted, it's difficult for the CDC to report about fentanyl-related overdose deaths because there are many different variants, and because national data doesn't record fentanyl-specific deaths. CNN reported that only six of the states the CDC studied for findings even record deaths from fentanyl: Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Ohio.
"I would say it's like crack on steroids," Bertha Madras, former director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and current psychobiology professor at Harvard Medical School, told CNN. "It enters the brain much more quickly."
You can read the rest of the CDC's report here.