Philadelphia’s drug-overdose deaths are sharply increasing due to mixtures of cocaine and the synthetic-opioid fentanyl as the painkiller rapidly invades drug supplies.
The number of cocaine samples the Drug Enforcement Administration tested that came up for fentanyl spiked by 112 percent between 2016 and 2017, alarming city-health officials. Officials say the influx of fentanyl, a substance roughly 50-to-100 times more powerful than morphine, is expanding the opioid epidemic’s reach to drugs more widely used socially in the population, according to Philly.com.
Philadelphia lost 280 residents to drug overdoses involving cocaine and opioids in 2016, with more than half the cases involving fentanyl. The Philadelphia medical examiner says deaths linked to cocaine and opioids already claimed 262 residents by June of 2017, and 85 percent were fueled by fentanyl.
“As we see this expansion of fentanyl and fentanyl analogs into the drug supply, the universe of people who might be at risk is much broader,” Christopher Jones, director of the National Mental Health and Substance Abuse Police Laboratory at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, told Philly.com. “That’s why you see the really significant spikes in overdose deaths since 2015.”
Fentanyl overtook heroin as the U.S.’s deadliest substance in 2016, claiming 19,413 lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC estimates cocaine-overdose deaths increased from roughly 4,000 in 2009 to more than 6,700 in 2015. Officials predict cocaine-overdose deaths are about to explode in 2017 to nearly 11,000. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein previously warned it takes only 2 milligrams of fentanyl, “the equivalent of a few grains of table salt,” to cause a fatal overdose.
Nationally, drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016.
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