INDIANAPOLIS — New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the gap between overdose deaths caused by synthetic opioids like fentanyl and deaths caused by other drugs has significantly widened in the last few years.
The provisional data released by the CDC shows that 30,483 people died in Indiana from drug overdoses in 2021. This is a roughly 26% increase in drug overdose deaths from 2020. Nationally, there was a 21% increase in drug overdose deaths.
A rising factor in these overdose deaths is fentanyl. The data shows synthetic opioid overdoses excluding methadone nearly doubled from 2019-2020 in Indiana. This class of opioids includes fentanyl, pethidine, levorphanol, tramadol, and dextropropoxyphene.
“People are not necessarily choosing to use fentanyl they’re going for what they think is an Oxicodon or a prescribed pill and instead it’s mixed with fentanyl,” said Stephanie Anderson, CEO of Recovery Centers of America. “That’s what’s leading to those overdose deaths. People do not realize what they’re taking.”
Nationally, the synthetic opioids overdose death rate rose roughly 47% from 2019-2020. Anderson says part of the reason for the increase is drug dealers adding fentanyl to all sorts of substances.
“It’s cheap to cut a drug with fentanyl,” said Anderson. “It gives a very powerful high. The dealer takes a great risk here. It gets people more addicted to the substance and they balance that with I might lose this person to death or I might get them really addicted and have a good customer.”
Since 2015, CDC data shows synthetic opioids have become the prevalent source of overdose deaths nationwide. In 2020, synthetic opioids made up 41% of overdose deaths nationwide. In comparison, in 2015, the first year on the CDC data track, opioids only made up only 17% of overdose deaths nationwide.
Anderson says fentanyl cut into other drugs is causing issues when people come in for treatment. She says they may be coming in for one thing, and the fentanyl is only discovered during screening.
“That first understanding of I’m not just taking what I thought I was taking this very deadly drug, it’s oftentimes very shocking for people,” said Anderson.
Anderson said in order to turn the statistics around is to reduce the stigma about seeking help for drug addiction. Anderson said they have experienced people who are afraid to ask for help, or they don’t know what to say. While they don’t always know what to say either, they want to give people a chance.
“Not saying something or getting your loved one help or asking for help yourself is death, that’s what we know, it’s death,” said Anderson.
People can call Recovery Centers of America’s Indianapolis at 855-578-1242.