“Fentapills,” Fentanyl, illicit opioids & the Black-Market Internet: A Perfect Storm of Danger and Death

On November 17, 2021 the Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Health Statistics, Office of Communication, released findings indicating that there were an estimated 100,306 drug overdose deaths in the United States during a 12-month period ending in April 2021, an increase of 28.5% from the 78,056 deaths during the same period the year before. Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl) and psychostimulants such as methamphetamine also increased during this period, which ended in April 2021. Cocaine deaths also increased, as did deaths from natural and semi-synthetic opioids (such as prescription pain medication).

            Mortality statistics are compiled in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) regulations specifying that WHO member nations classify and code causes of death with the current revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD). ICD provides the basic guidance used in virtually all countries to code and classify causes of death. It provides not only disease, injury, and poisoning categories but also the rules used to select the single underlying cause of death. These are useful for tabulation from the several diagnoses that may be reported on a single death certificate, as well as definitions, tabulation lists, the format of the death certificate, and regulations on use of the classification (National Vital Statistics System. Instructions for classifying the underlying cause of death. In: NCHS instruction manual; Part 2a. Published annually).

            The underlying headline is that we, as a group, must unify our efforts on all fronts to protect all of these individuals, which unfortunately include friends, family, and loved ones. Substance Use Disorder indeed does not discriminate! Let’s up our awareness, prevention efforts, and of course interdiction. The SASSI Institute provides articles discussing some of these important issues, especially how they affect one of our most vulnerable populations, teenagers. You can access these publications free of charge on our SASSI website at: https://sassi.com/references/

More in-depth information regarding these alarming statistics is available from the original study authors: Ahmad FB, Rossen LM, Sutton P. Provisional drug overdose death counts. National Center for Health Statistics. 2022.

This article also apears in the Indiana Criminal Justice Association’s, The Comment, Spring Edition.