Editorial: Fentanyl is the deadliest drug, our work is far from over
Fentanyl is now the deadliest drug in America, according to the latest report from the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On average, in each year from 2013 to 2016, the rate of overdose deaths from fentanyl increased by about 113 percent each year. The report, released Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018, states that fentanyl was responsible for 29 percent of all overdose deaths in 2016, up from only 4 percent in 2011.
The drug, which led to the deaths of two young Prescott Valley men this fall, was responsible for the deaths of more than 63,000 Americans in 2016, according to the report.
That’s an average of 174 deaths each day.
While those statistics are the latest available from the federal government, and efforts by the Partners Against Narcotics Trafficking continue, PANT’s commander, Nate Auvenshine, said earlier this month: “In briefing with my guys today, I said, ‘Where are we at on these fentanyl targets?’ There are a lot fewer than there were just a couple of weeks ago.”
That’s the good news. Making this scourge on society front page news is having a positive impact — to which The Daily Courier and Prescott News Network pledged $10,000 to Silent Witness for information leading to the arrest of fentanyl drug dealers.
The bad news is just this past week, as reported in Friday’s (Dec. 14) edition of The Daily Courier, three more people were recently arrested by PANT detectives involving drugs — one of which was an alleged fentanyl dealer and another was in possession of pills laced with the killer drug.
This work in our community is far from over.
In fact, a drug that made headlines locally about five years ago — heroin — used to be the nation’s deadliest drug. The National Center for Health Statistics report had heroin in that top position from 2012 to 2015.
Here’s another fact that is troubling, a sign that it is not only one drug that challenges families and authorities: the study states that many people who die from overdoses have multiple drugs in their system.
“We’ve had a tendency to think of these drugs in isolation,” Dr. Holly Hedegaard, lead author of the report. “It’s not really what’s happening.”
For example, about 40 percent of people listed as dying of a cocaine overdose also had fentanyl in their system.
After fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine were the deadliest drugs in 2016. After declines earlier in the decade, the report said, overdose deaths from both cocaine and methamphetamine were starting to rise again as well.
It is not a matter of conscious decision either. The study states that illegal drugs such as fentanyl and heroin were the primary causes of “unintentional overdoses,” while prescription drugs such as oxycodone tended to be used in suicide overdoses.
We must soldier on in this war on drugs. Keep talking with your children, investigate what they’re doing — make keeping them alive your mission. And, remember, your calls to Silent Witness are helping clean up our streets, our community.
To report drug activity, particularly involving fentanyl use or a dealer, call the Yavapai Silent Witness program at 800-932-3232. And you don’t have to give your name.
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