1. Deaths from Overdose in the United States 2015

"During 2015, drug overdoses accounted for 52,404 U.S. deaths, including 33,091 (63.1%) that involved an opioid. There has been progress in preventing methadone deaths, and death rates declined by 9.1%. However, rates of deaths involving other opioids, specifically heroin and synthetic opioids other than methadone (likely driven primarily by illicitly manufactured fentanyl) (2,3), increased sharply overall and across many states."

Rudd RA, Seth P, David F, Scholl L. Increases in Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths — United States, 2010–2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:1445–1452. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmw...

2. What is Fentanyl?

"Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid analgesic acting predominately at the μ-opiate receptor. It has historically been used as a pain reliever and an anaesthetic in both human and veterinary medicine and in terms of analgesic activity it is at least 80 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl was first synthesized by Paul Janssen in 1960 and marketed as a medicinal product for treating pain. Subsequently, many fentanyl analogues were developed including sufentanil, alfentanil, remifentanil, and carfentanil. Fentanyl was first introduced for widespread palliative use in the mid-1990s in the form of transdermal patches, and to this day, it continues to be an important and much prescribed pain management medication in many countries. Concern surrounding the fentanyls is linked to their potential for dependence and misuse, their high potency and associated risk of fatal overdose."

Jane Mounteney, Isabelle Giraudon, Gleb Denissov, and Paul Griffiths, "Fentanyls: Are we missing the signs? Highly potent and on the rise in Europe," International Journal of Drug Policy, Volume 26, Issue 7, 626 - 631. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2015.04.003. Epub 2015 Apr 17.

3. Alcohol as a Factor in Overdose Deaths Attributed to Other Drugs in the US

"In 2014, alcohols, including ethanol and isopropyl alcohol, were involved in 15% of all drug overdose deaths and 17% of the drug overdose deaths that mentioned involvement of at least one specific drug. Table E shows the frequency of alcohol involvement among drug overdose deaths involving specific drugs.

"• Alcohol involvement was mentioned in 12%–22% of the drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl, heroin, hydrocodone, morphine, oxycodone, alprazolam, diazepam, or cocaine.

"• Alcohol involvement was mentioned in less than 10% of the drug overdose deaths involving methadone and methamphetamine."

Warner M, Trinidad JP, Bastian BA, et al. Drugs most frequently involved in drug overdose deaths: United States, 2010–2014. National vital statistics reports; vol 65 no 10. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2016, pp. 5-6.

4. Worldwide Growth in Novel Psychoactive Substances

"Between 2008 and 2015, a total of 644 NPS had been reported by 102 countries and territories to the UNODC early warning advisory on NPS. The emergence of NPS was reported for the first time in 2015 in Kyrgyzstan and Mauritius. In 2015, the early warning advisory also registered the emergence of NPS in previous years in Belarus, Serbia, South Africa and Tajikistan. The majority of countries and territories that reported the emergence of NPS up to December 2015 were from Europe (41), followed by Asia (30), Africa (16), the Americas (13) and Oceania (2).
"The NPS market continues to be characterized by a large number of new substances being reported. Although data collection for 2015 is still in progress, 75 new substances have been reported to UNODC for the first time, compared with a total of only 66 in 2014. Between 2012 and 2014, most substances reported for the first time belonged to the group of synthetic cannabinoids. The data reported for 2015 so far show a different pattern: first, 20 synthetic cathinones (a group of substances with stimulant effects similar to cocaine or methamphetamine) were reported for the first time — almost as many as synthetic cannabinoids (21); and second, 21 'other substances' (substances not belonging to any of the major groups identified in previous years) were reported for the first time, including synthetic opioids (e.g. fentanyl derivatives) and sedatives (e.g. benzodiazepines).
"A growing number of NPS are reported every year by a large number of countries and territories throughout the world. NPS that have an established presence in the market include ketamine (reported by 62 countries and territories), khat (reported by 56), JWH-018 (reported by 50), mephedrone (reported by 49) and methylone (reported by 47).227 Other NPS are transient in nature and are only reported by a small number of countries and territories for a couple of years."

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, World Drug Report 2016 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.16.XI.7), p. 56.

5. Rise in Opiate Prescriptions in US

"Even though opioids have been controlled in the United States with regulations and restrictions, opioid utilization has been increasing at an unprecedented pace (1-10). Manchikanti et al (1), in an evaluation of opioid usage over a period of 10 years, showed an overall increase of 149% in retail sales of opioids from 1997 to 2007 in the United States, with an increase of 1,293% for methadone, 866% for oxycodone, and 525% for fentanyl. Similarly, the increase in therapeutic opioid use in the United States in milligrams per person from 1997 to 2007 increased 402% overall, with the highest increase in methadone of 1,124% mg/person and oxycodone of 899% mg/person."

Christo,Paul J.; Manchikanti, Laxmaiah; Ruan, Xiulu; Bottros, Michael; Hansen, Hans; Solanki, Daneshvari R.; Jordan, Arthur E.; and Colson, James , "Urine Drug Testing In Chronic Pain," Pain Physician (Paducah, KY: American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, March/April 2011), Vol. 14, Issue 2, p. 124.