Fentanyl-related overdose deaths have increased 1,000% over the past 5 years

Fentanyl-related overdose deaths in the United States have increased by more than 1,000% from 2011 through 2016, according to a startling new .

In the past decade, the highly potent synthetic opioid, fentanyl, has been increasingly involved in fatal drug overdoses in the United States. Using data from the National Vital Statistics System—Mortality multiple cause-of-death files enhanced with literal text from death certificates, researchers identified and analyzed drug overdose deaths involving the drug from 2011 to 2016.

The results paint an alarming picture of the mounting opioid epidemic in the United States. In 2011 and 2012, fatal overdoses related to fentanyl were stable at roughly 1,600 deaths (1,663 in 2011 and 1,615 in 2012). However, beginning in 2013, fatalities involving the drug rose exponentially, doubling each year from 1,919 deaths in 2013 to 18,335 in 2016.

While fatal drug overdoses have surged across the country, the East Coast and Upper Midwest were the most affected, with number of deaths increasing by more than 102% per year. In particular, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regions 1 (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) and 2 (New Jersey, New York, and New York City) showed the largest spikes, with 113.9% and 110.9% deaths per year, respectively.

Young adults aged 25 to 34 years experienced the largest annual increase of drug overdose deaths (100%) among all age groups, followed closely by persons aged 15 to 24 (93.9%). In addition, the rate of fatalities among males (8.6 per 100,000) almost tripled that among females (3.1) in 2016.

Annual fatal drug overdoses have increased the most dramatically among African Americans (140.6% per year), followed closely by Hispanic persons (118.3%). However, non-Hispanic white Americans continue to have the greatest rate of fatal overdoses, claiming nearly 78% of total fentanyl-related deaths in 2016 (14,236 out of 18,335).