A new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics found that fentanyl is the drug most commonly identified in fatal overdoses. In 2017, fentanyl was associated with 38.9% of all drug overdose deaths, an increase from 2016, when it was associated with 29% of all fatal overdoses. This is the second year that CDC analyzed fatal overdoses in this way.
In 2017, heroin was associated with 22.8% of all fatal overdoses. Cocaine, a stimulant, was involved in 21.3% and methamphetamine, also a stimulant, was involved in 13.3%.
Other drugs linked to overdose deaths were benzodiazepines; diphenhydramine, an antihistamine; and gabapentin, an anticonvulsant.
While fentanyl was the most common drug involved in fatal overdoses nationally, there was a geographic divide, the report said. Fentanyl was the drug most likely to be involved in overdoses in states in the eastern United States, but methamphetamine was the drug most associated with overdoses in the western half of the country.
According to the CDC, overdoses death rates involving psychostimulants, including methamphetamines and cocaine, have been rising since 2010. In 2017, the number of people dying from overdoses involving psychostimulants rose above 10,000, an increase of 37% from the year before.
Methamphetamine was the drug most frequently involved in overdose deaths in the regions that include Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada and Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
Typically, fentanyl, along with white powder heroin, has been more common east of the Mississippi River, and Mexican black tar and brown powder heroin has been more commonly found west of the Mississippi.
In 2017, the latest year for which complete data is available, more than 70,000 people died from drug overdoses. Opioids such as fentanyl and heroin represented about 68% of those deaths.