Most common cause of overdose deaths

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Numbers show the country is dealing with an unprecedented drug overdose crisis. And now, a new government report finds the powerful opioid fentanyl is the biggest killer.

New CDC research shows fentanyl is now the most common drug involved in drug overdose deaths in the United States.  Dr. Courtney McKnight with NYU College of Global Health says fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

“People don’t know it’s being cut into the drugs, so they’re using the same amount of heroin they’re used to but it contains a more potent opioid and that’s leading to overdose deaths,” she said.

The study looked at death certificates of people who overdosed from 2011 to 2016 and found a 54% increase in drug overdose deaths.   

Overall,  more than 63,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2016. Many of those overdoses often involve more than one drug.

Dr. McKnight said, “We need to know that overdose deaths include drugs other than opioids. So we need to be thinking more broadly about the crisis as a drug overdose crisis as opposed to just an opioid crisis.”

After fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine accounted for the highest numbers of overdose deaths by the end of the study.

The report also found drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone were more likely to be used in suicide by overdose.

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