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Overdose Deaths Related to Fentanyl and Its Analogs — Ohio, January–February 2017
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  • Pubmed ID:
    28859050
  • Pubmed Central ID:
    PMC5657791
  • Description:
    Ohio is experiencing unprecedented loss of life caused by unintentional drug overdoses (1), with illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF) emerging as a significant threat to public health (2,3). IMF is structurally similar to pharmaceutical fentanyl, but is produced in clandestine laboratories and includes fentanyl analogs that display wide variability in potency (2); variations in chemical composition of these drugs make detection more difficult. During 2010-2015, unintentional drug overdose deaths in Ohio increased 98%, from 1,544 to 3,050.* In Montgomery County (county seat: Dayton), one of the epicenters of the opioid epidemic in the state, unintentional drug overdose deaths increased 40% in 1 year, from 249 in 2015 to 349 in 2016 (estimated unadjusted mortality rate = 57.7 per 100,000) (4). IMFs have not been part of routine toxicology testing at the coroner's offices and other types of medical and criminal justice settings across the country (2,3). Thus, data on IMF test results in the current outbreak have been limited. The Wright State University and the Montgomery County Coroner's Office/Miami Valley Regional Crime Laboratory (MCCO/MVRCL) collaborated on a National Institutes of Health study of fentanyl analogs and metabolites and other drugs identified in 281 unintentional overdose fatalities in 24 Ohio counties during January-February 2017. Approximately 90% of all decedents tested positive for fentanyl, 48% for acryl fentanyl, 31% for furanyl fentanyl, and 8% for carfentanil. Pharmaceutical opioids were identified in 23% of cases, and heroin in 6%, with higher proportions of heroin-related deaths in Appalachian counties. The majority of decedents tested positive for more than one type of fentanyl. Evidence suggests the growing role of IMFs, and the declining presence of heroin and pharmaceutical opioids in unintentional overdose fatalities, compared with 2014-2016 data from Ohio and other states (3-5). There is a need to include testing for IMFs as part of standard toxicology panels for biological specimens used in the medical, substance abuse treatment, and criminal justice settings.

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