Deaths from drug overdoses continue to rise in the United States
, killing 72,000 people this year alone, a 10 percent increase over the past year. The number of people who have died from overdosing is now higher than the death tolls for HIV, car crashes, or gun deaths
at the peaks of their respective crises.
The upshot in these deaths
is indicative of two central problems: an increase in users and stronger drugs. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, can be easily added to other drugs such as heroin or synthetic marijuana
creating a more severe concoction. Synthetic opioids are also easier to transport and harder to detect, making them easier to incorporate into the illicit drug supply chain.
The prevalence and prominence of synthetic opioids in drugs like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, and benzodiazepines, falls along regional lines. In the East and Midwest heroin tends to be processed into a white powder, making it easier to mix with fentanyl or other synthetic opioids, while in the West heroin is processed differently making it harder to slip lethal, synthetic opioids into these other drugs.