Growing fentanyl crisis is leaving ‘trail of death’ in its wake, federal officials warn
Fentanyl, a powerful opioid that is being used illicitly in some communities, has led to a series of overdose deaths and fueled a growing national crisis, federal officials warned Wednesday.
The Trump administration is launching a review and plans to create new policies to combat the drug, which has caused thousands of overdose deaths in the United States since its use became entrenched in the illicit drug market.
“These deaths are being caused by fentanyl and heroin,” Thomas Fox, Special Agent in Charge of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles, told a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, “and we still haven’t caught up to what we have, so there’s a long trail of death leading to these individuals, which leads to addiction and death.”
As of June 30, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the fentanyl-related overdose death rate in the United States was 15.9 per 100,000 people, the highest since 1999. In 2016, that rate was 15.8 per 100,000 people.
While more than 400,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016, the number was the highest on record since 1980. An estimated 5,000 people died of drug overdoses during 2016, the CDC said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in response to the growing opioid epidemic in the United States, issued a warning in July regarding “Fentanyl-Laced Pain Relief Products and Other Medications for Opioid Use Disorders.”
The agency said that drug companies were making a “significant surge” in the use of prescription opioids to treat ailments including pain, chronic pain, and nausea. In 2015, the agency said, the number of opioid overdose deaths surpassed heroin overdoses.
As of June, 1.7 million people had been prescribed an opioid analgesic since 2014, according to the agency.
Fentanyl was approved as a prescription medication in 1963. It was given the brand name Subsys, but then was later sold as Duragesic; however, it wasn’t until the mid