Fentanyl and carfentanyl are synthetic opioids that are much more powerful than heroin or morphine.

Opioid Involvement in Deaths in the US Attributed to Drug Overdose, 2016

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2016, there were 63,632 drug overdose deaths in the United States. The CDC further estimates that of those, 42,249 deaths involved any opioid. The CDC further reports that in 2016, 15,469 deaths involved heroin; 14,487 deaths involved natural and semi-synthetic opioids; 3,373 deaths involved methadone; and 19,413 deaths involved synthetic opioids other than methadone, a category which includes fentanyl.

Growth of Fentanyl Related Deaths in the US

"Preliminary estimates of U.S. drug overdose deaths exceeded 60,000 in 2016 and were partially driven by a fivefold increase in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids (excluding methadone), from 3,105 in 2013 to approximately 20,000 in 2016 (1,2). Illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50–100 times more potent than morphine, is primarily responsible for this rapid increase (3,4). In addition, fentanyl analogs such as acetylfentanyl, furanylfentanyl, and carfentanil are being detected increasingly in overdose deaths (5,6) and the illicit opioid drug supply (7).

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.

Deaths from Drug Overdose in the United States

"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."

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.

Worldwide Growth in Novel Psychoactive Substances

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).

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.