Fentanyl Is the Most Deadly Drug in America, CDC Confirms

December 13, 2018

By Nancy Dillon

It’s official: Fentanyl now ranks as the most deadly drug in America, health officials said Wednesday.

The synthetic opioid that’s up to 50 times more powerful than heroin was responsible for 18,335 overdose deaths in 2016, more than any other drug, the National Center for Health Statistics said in a new report.

By comparison, heroin, the drug that previously held the No. 1 spot, caused 15,961 overdose deaths in 2016, the most recent year included in the new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials said fentanyl deaths skyrocketed over the five-year period included in the new report that analyzed death certificates.

Fentanyl was mentioned in the death records of approximately 1,600 people in 2011 and 2012. That number hovered around 1,919 in 2013, then more than doubled to 4,223 in 2014 and jumped again to 8,251 in 2015, the new report said.

The drug has been linked to many high-profile fatalities, including the accidental overdose deaths of Prince, Tom Petty, former Wilco band member Jay Bennett and rappers Lil Peep and Mac Miller.

Overall, drug overdose deaths have spiked during the last decade, researchers found.

From 2011 through 2016, the number of drug overdose deaths increased by 54 percent in the U.S., from 41,340 deaths in 2011 to 63,632 deaths in 2016, according to the report.

Oxycodone ranked as the deadliest drug in 2011. It was replaced by heroin from 2012 to 2015.

The new report found 29 percent of all overdose deaths in 2016 involved fentanyl.

Throughout the study period, cocaine ranked second or third among the top 15 deadliest drugs.

From 2014 through 2016, the number of drug overdose deaths involving cocaine nearly doubled from 5,892 to 11,316.

The report also found that approximately 70 percent of drug overdose deaths linked to fentanyl or heroin involved at least one other specific drug.

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