HealthDay News — Synthetic opioid involvement in opioid-related overdose deaths increased significantly from 2010 to 2016, according to a research letter published in the May 1 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Christopher M. Jones, PharmD, MPH, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in Rockville, Md., and colleagues describe recent trends for synthetic opioid involvement in drug overdose deaths. The number of synthetic opioid-involved overdose deaths were calculated by year for 2010 through 2016, as well as the number and percentage of synthetic opioid overdose deaths in 2016 that also involved any drug or alcohol.
The researchers found that 19,413 of the 42,249 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2016 involved synthetic opioids. From 2010 to 2016 there was an increase in synthetic opioid involvement in opioid-related deaths from 14.3 to 45.9%. From 2010 to 2016 there were significant increases in synthetic opioid involvement in overdose deaths involving prescription opioids, heroin, and all other illicit or psychotherapeutic drugs. Most (79.7%) of the synthetic opioid-related overdose deaths in 2016 involved another drug or alcohol. The most common co-involved substances were another opioid, heroin, cocaine, prescription opioids, benzodiazepines, alcohol, psychostimulants, and antidepressants (47.9, 29.8, 21.6, 20.9, 17.0, 11.1, 5.4, and 5.2%, respectively).
“Lack of awareness about synthetic opioid potency, variability, availability, and increasing adulteration of the illicit drug supply poses substantial risks to individual and public health,” the authors write.