100 times more potent than morphine, fentanyl brings US to the brink of overdose deaths

15 minutes. Almost 50,000 people died in 2019 in the United States (USA) from opioid overdoses, in a “crisis” that has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic and is caused mainly by fentanyl, the United Nations warned this Thursday. This synthetic drug is 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Those 50,000 deaths represent an increase of 100% compared to the figures of a decade ago. The situation qualifies as a true “crisis” in the World Report on Drugs published by the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

To put that data in perspective, that body indicates that in 2018 some 8,300 people died of overdoses in the European Union (EU), despite having a much larger population.

Thus, in proportion to the population, opioids cause 10 times more deaths in the US than in the EU.

In the report, the UNODC stated that “North America has seen an increase in opioid overdose deaths since the start of the pandemic.”

Less quantity to kill

In addition, he noted that the problem is “evolving.” Deaths related to heroin use and non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, have declined in the last 5 years.

“At present, the crisis is mainly due to overdose deaths attributed to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and its analogues,” the report noted.

The problem, the UNODC explained, is that fentanyl is up to 100 times more potent than morphine. That is the amount needed to cause death from an overdose is much smaller.

The impact of fentanyl is even greater. Half of the deaths from heroin, and many from cocaine or methamphetamine, also involve the use of that drug.

The UN indicated that seizures of fentanyl and its derivatives, on the rise for years, skyrocketed globally by 60% in 2019, with large amounts intervened in the US and Canada.

Much more other opioids are seized than fentanyl. But when counted in daily doses, that synthetic drug accounts for 63% of all pharmaceutical opioids seized in 2019.

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