Trends in and Characteristics of Drug Overdose Deaths Involving Illicitly Manufactured Fentanyls — U.S. 2019–2020
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Trends in and Characteristics of Drug Overdose Deaths Involving Illicitly Manufactured Fentanyls — U.S. 2019–2020

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  • Alternative Title:
    MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep
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    During May 2020-April 2021, the estimated number of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. exceeded 100,000 over a 12-month period for the first time, with 64.0% of deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (mainly illicitly manufactured fentanyls [IMFs], which include both fentanyl and illicit fentanyl analogs).* Introduced primarily as adulterants in or replacements for white powder heroin east of the Mississippi River (1), IMFs are now widespread in white powder heroin markets, increasingly pressed into counterfeit pills resembling oxycodone, alprazolam, or other prescription drugs, and are expanding into new markets, including in the western U.S.| (2). This report describes Trends in overdose deaths involving IMFs (IMF-involved deaths) during July 2019-December 2020 (29 states and the District of Columbia [DC]), and characteristics of IMF-involved deaths during 2020 (39 states and DC) using data from CDC's State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System (SUDORS). During July 2019-December 2020, IMF-involved deaths increased sharply in midwestern (33.1%), southern (64.7%), and western (93.9%) jurisdictions participating in SUDORS. Approximately four in 10 IMF-involved deaths also involved a stimulant. Highlighting the need for timely overdose response, 56.1% of decedents had no pulse when first responders arrived. Injection drug use was the most frequently reported individual route of drug use (24.5%), but evidence of snorting, smoking, or ingestion, but not injection drug use was found among 27.1% of decedents. Adapting and expanding overdose Prevention, harm reduction, and response efforts is urgently needed to address the high potency (3), and various routes of use for IMFs. Enhanced treatment for substance use disorders is also needed to address the increased risk for overdose (4) and treatment Complications (5) associated with using IMFs with stimulants.
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