The rate of drug overdose deaths linked to fentanyl in the United States has skyrocketed over the last five years, new federal data showed.
The rate of overdose deaths involving fentanyl spiked by 279% between 2016 and 2021 from 5.7 per 100,000 to 21.6 per 100,000, according to a report published early Wednesday by the National Center for Health Statistics' National Vital Statistics System -- which looked at death certificate records.
"When it comes to overdose, really the biggest driver is folks who are really struggling with addiction primarily on street drugs, which fentanyl is primarily found in terms of the street drug supply rather than a prescription medication," Dr. Allison Lin, an addiction psychiatrist at University of Michigan Medical School, who was not involved in the report, told ABC News.
"And it's primarily folks who are struggling with addiction to multiple substances, so oftentimes, folks who are using not only fentanyl, but fentanyl plus cocaine or fentanyl plus methamphetamine," she said.
"The vast majority of our folks or patients with substance use disorders, even if they don't know it, they're primarily using the drug supply that's primarily fentanyl," Lin said. "So, the folks who were using heroin previously are the folks who are also using fentanyl now. It's just that the supply of opioids and other drugs in our communities are primarily supplies that are predominantly fentanyl because of all the characteristics of it, how inexpensive it is, how easy it is to cut with other substances, other factors."