Opioid deaths decreased during January to July 2018, while deaths from illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF) increased during the same period, according to research published in the Aug. 30 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Noting that provisional estimates of the number of opioid deaths for 2018 suggest a decrease from 2017, R. Matt Gladden, Ph.D., from the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues evaluated the extent to which the decreases occurred broadly or were limited to specific opioid types. Opioid deaths during January to June 2018 and changes from July to December 2017 were examined in 25 states.
The researchers observed a 4.6 percent decrease in overall opioid deaths from July-December 2017 to January-June 2018. Prescription opioid deaths without coinvolved illicit opioids and deaths involving non-IMF illicit synthetic opioids (fentanyl analogs and U-series drugs) decreased, while an increase was seen in IMF deaths, especially those with multiple illicit opioids and common nonopioids. During January to June 2018, IMF was involved in about two-thirds of opioid deaths. During this time period, 62.6 percent of all opioid deaths co-occurred with at least one common nonopioid drug.
"Continued increases in IMF deaths highlight the need to broaden outreach to persons at high risk for IMF overdoses and improve linkage to risk-reduction services and evidence-based treatment," the authors write.