Rise of fentanyl: Seen in half of deadly overdoses in state

Arlington Virginia the powerful narcotic is one of the drugs responsible for driving up America's drugs deaths

"We would be doing much better in addressing the overdose crisis if it weren't for fentanyl".

Overdoses of opioids, including prescription drugs and heroin, killed more than 33,000 people in the United States in 2015 - the latest year for which data are available.

The death rate from synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, surged 72 percent in 2015, and heroin death rates increased nearly 21 percent.

"All New Yorkers who use drugs, even if only occasionally, should know their drugs may be mixed with fentanyl", health commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said in a statement to Business Insider.

A new study reports a 46 percent increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths from 2014 to 2016 in Rhode Island. In Massachusetts, for example, about 75 percent of the 1,374 opioid-linked deaths in 2016 involved the substance.

Of the total deaths in 2015, almost 13,000 were caused by heroin overdoses.

Now law enforcement agencies are urging officers never to test drugs in the field. Nevertheless, an unrelated annual report from the European Monitoring Centre For Drugs and Drug Addiction was also released this week, showing Europe's rate of drug deaths increased for the third year in a row. "It's time to call this what it is - an emergency", says Arizona Governor Doug Ducey in a statement. It's not just drug abusers who overdose.

Many believe providing more access to the drug will help stabilize the rate of deaths related to overdoses, including Dr. Thomas Frieden, M.D., CDC director, who penned an opinion piece in Fox News late previous year about ending the epidemic.

More than two million Americans have some sort of physical dependence on opioids - painkillers that are legally prescribed to many people, but can become addicting if they are taken in excess or for long periods of time.

A new and even more unsafe aspect of the opioid crisis is the increasing prevalence of extremely potent, illegally manufactured variants of existing drugs, such as fentanyl.

Frieden believes the war on drugs can be fought by increasing the availability of naloxone, making drug abuse treatment centers more readily available and urging doctors to be more conservative when treating pain.

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