Heroin Overdose Deaths due to Fentanyl

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According to the National Drug Threat Assessment report, fentanyl-related heroin overdose deaths are on the increase in the US. Because some illegal fentanyl is smuggled into the United States from other nations like Mexico and China, a significant number of fatalities are reported in the nation. The amount of illegal fentanyl combined with heroin-based ingredients increases drug abuse. Fentanyl is defined as a potent that is a synthetic opioid prescribed for people with cancer and those suffering from chronic pain. Fentanyl is more effective than heroin and with its strong properties it is being used by very many people in the United States. Fentanyl is used as a painkiller and an aesthetic and also used as a drug during recreation. The use of fentanyl in recreation has caused thousands of deaths due to overdosing. Fentanyl was introduced into drug open market because of its greater potent or effectiveness than heroin. The problem of fentanyl related heroin overdose deaths can be stopped through education and law enforcement. This is where the laws are enacted that pertains to curbing the use of illicit fentanyl in the United States.

Fentanyl Related Heroin Overdose Deaths

There is a rise in fentanyl related heroin overdose deaths in the whole nation. In 2016, the results of deaths that were obtained from National Drug Threat Assessment showed how the United States are affected by illicit drugs. The NDTA reports reveals that there was an increase in the heroin user population that culminated into larger number of overdoses. In the United States, about 129 people have passed on because of overdosing and drug poisoning and 79 of them died of heroin related overdose in 2014. The increase in the American death is associated with illicit drug markets, fentanyl related heroin and arrival of carfentanil. NDTA reports also confirm that fentanyl and heroin opioids are killing people at an alarming rate in the United States. And it can only be stopped through education, treatment and law enforcement.

The National Drug Treatment Assessment in 2016 revealed that as much as there is a decrease in drug abuse, seizure of counterfeit drug prescription is on the rise. There are high heroin overdose deaths in the Northeast and Midwest of the United States where the number of deaths tripled between the year 2010 and 2014. The trend of synthetic opioids deaths is on the rise for instance, the number of deaths increase from 3, 097 in 2013 to 5,544 in 2014. Heroin highly contributes to the large number of deaths as it is mixed with fentanyl and sold to the users who are unaware of its effect.

What is fentanyl?

Fentanyl refers to a potent that is a synthetic opioid prescribed for people with cancer and the people who are suffering from chronic pain. Paul Janssen made fentanyl and structurally modified it to perform opioid activity. In 1960s, the use of fentanyl facilitated the making of fentanyl citrate that was being used as an aesthetic substance. The other fentanyl analogues that were incorporated for medical practice comprised lofentanil and remifentanil. Later in 1990s, the synthetic opioid was made with dissolving substances like dissolving tablets and fentanyl lollipop that could easily be absorbed in the mouth (Latimer et al., 2016). As a synthetic opioid, fentanyl is more effective than heroin and with its strong properties it is prone to a drug abuse.

There are some foreign countries that manufacture illicit fentanyl and smuggle them into the United States. The illicit fentanyl is mixed with heroin products without the awareness of the users that currently lead to overdose in the United States. Apart from fentanyl being used in medicine, it is also used as a drug during recreation. The use of fentanyl in recreation has caused thousands of deaths due to overdosing from the year 2000 to 2015. Fentanyl is good for surgical aesthetic but it should be carefully used since it can easily be overdosed. The recreational drug should be highly diluted to avoid the cases of overdosing. The effective measurement for the effective dose of fentanyl should not be judged by the naked eye.

How fentanyl has been introduced to the open drug market

Fentanyl was found to more powerful than heroin hence produced to be used as a supplement in the open drug market. Fentanyl was made to be used as an aesthetics and painkiller to people who had surgical pains. The potency of fentanyl substance became attractive to many manufacturers in China and Mexico. It made them to create different pharmaceutical versions of the drug substance where some are made in form of patches and sprays. The potency of fentanyl has also made the drug to dominate the open drug market in the United States and it is developed in different forms for consumptions.

The countries like China and Mexico has identified the market for fentanyl therefore, they also produce illicit fentanyl. The mentioned countries then smuggle their illicit products into the United States. The illicit fentanyl that is produced by other countries cause high rate of deaths due to overdose (Lozier et al., 2015). The Drug Enforcement Administration gave the fentanyl drug a greater priority in the country because it is serving different purposes. The introduction of fentanyl has helped the country to cater for all patients since it is produced in different forms. After developing fentanyl with some heroin products, it was legalized by Drug Enforcement Administration in the United States. The administration are working hard to eliminate the smuggling of illicit fentanyl into the United States by countries like Mexico and China.

Reasons for the increase of fentanyl on the streets

The trafficking of fentanyl has increased in the streets due to its effectiveness over other drugs that are performing the same purpose. The use of fentanyl has been prioritized in the United States that leads to increase in its level of abuse in the streets. Many people feel safe to use the drug as a painkiller and aesthetic (Peterson, 2016). This leads to an increased abuse because there is a recommended dose that users are supposed to consume to avoid overdose. Most people have a notion that the fentanyl is potent and cause no harm to them but it is made in different kinds that require a specific prescription.

The overdose of fentanyl has also increased in the streets because other countries like Mexico and China are smuggling illicit fentanyl into the United States. The smuggled fentanyl drugs are not recommended by Drug Enforcement Administration hence they are illegally sold in the streets. The illicit fentanyl are made with some additives to entice the users. Since such fentanyl are made in the forms of substances like lollipop that are familiar to the users, they can be overdosed leading to deaths. Most street traders sell illicit fentanyl at the expense of the recommended ones thus increasing the number of fentanyl overdose deaths.

What is being done to curb the problem?

The issue of fentanyl related heroin overdose deaths can be stopped through education, treatment and law enforcement. The rise in fentanyl related heroin overdose deaths in the United States can be stopped by educating the citizens about the issues. Since fentanyl overdosing occur in both children and adults, the school going children can be made aware on the effect of fentanyl (Rudd et al., 2016). The students can be made aware by incorporating issue in the subjects that are taught in schools or by making the students to discuss about the issue in groups. As the students learn about the fentanyl related heroin overdose deaths in schools, they will tend to tell their parents about effects when they go back home. By so doing, every member of the country would be aware of the problem associated with fentanyl and how they can avoid the risk of overdosing.

The drug enforcement administration should come up with a law that can stop the trade on illicit fentanyl in the United States. The smugglers do provide the citizens with illicit fentanyl that adversely affect their life (Mercado-Crespo et al., 2014). Such drugs can be easily abused by the members of the society since they made inform of things. The illicit fentanyl that are developed in form of lollipops can be abused or overdosed as the user would tend be eating the sweets or lollipop. The drug enforcement administration should set a regulation that would help stop the trade of illicit fentanyl in the United States. The administration should also conduct inspection in the open drug market to confirm the illegal drugs are sold in the streets.


Latimer, J., Ling, S., Flaherty, I., Jauncey, M., & Salmon, A. M. (2016). Risk of fentanyl overdose among clients of the Sydney Medically Supervised Injecting Centre. International Journal of Drug Policy, 37, 111-114.

Lozier, M. J., Boyd, M., Stanley, C., Ogilvie, L., King, E., Martin, C., & Lewis, L. (2015). Acetyl Fentanyl, a Novel Fentanyl Analog, Causes 14 Overdose Deaths in Rhode Island, March-May 2013. Journal of medical toxicology: official journal of the American College of Medical Toxicology, 11(2), 208-217.

Mercado-Crespo, M. C., Sumner, S. A., Spelke, M. B., Sugerman, D. E., & Stanley, C. (2014). Notes from the field: increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths–Rhode Island, November 2013-March 2014. MMWR, 63(24), 531.

Peterson, A. B. (2016). Increases in fentanyl-related overdose deaths—Florida and Ohio, 2013–2015. MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 65.

Rudd, R. A., Aleshire, N., Zibbell, J. E., & Matthew Gladden, R. (2016). Increases in drug and opioid overdose deaths—United States, 2000–2014. American Journal of Transplantation, 16(4), 1323-1327.

July 15, 2023



Asia Illness Addiction

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Drugs Death Drug Abuse

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