News from the FDA/CDC

Fentanyl-related deaths show strong regional pattern


 

Fentanyl was involved in more overdose deaths than any other drug in 2017, and the death rate in New England was 15 times higher than in regions of the Midwest and West, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl by region, 2017

Nationally, fentanyl was involved in 39% of all drug overdose deaths and had an age-adjusted death rate of 8.7/100,000 standard population in 2017. In 2016, when fentanyl also was the most involved drug in the United States, the corresponding figures were 29% and 5.9/100,000, the agency said in a recent report.

Fentanyl was the most involved drug in overdose deaths for 6 of the country’s 10 public health regions in 2017, with a clear pattern of decreasing use from east to west. The highest death rate (22.5/100,000) occurred in Region 1 (New England) and the lowest rates (1.5/100,000) came in Region 6 (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas) and Region 9 (Arizona, California, Hawaii, and Nevada), the researchers said.

A somewhat similar pattern was seen for heroin, which was second nationally on the list of drugs most frequently involved in overdose deaths (23%), except that New England was somewhat below three other regions in the East and upper Midwest. The highest heroin death rate (8.6/100,000) was seen in Region 2 (New Jersey and New York) and the lowest (2.2) occurred in Region 9, they said, based on data from the National Vital Statistics System’s mortality files.

The fentanyl pattern was even more closely repeated with cocaine, third in involvement nationally at 21% of overdose deaths in 2017. The high in overdose deaths (9.5/100,000) came in Region 1 again, and the low in Region 9 (1.3), along with Region 7 (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska) and Region 10 (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington), the report showed.

The regional pattern of overdose deaths for methamphetamine, which was fourth nationally in involvement (13.3%), basically reversed the other three drugs: highest in the West and lowest in the Northeast. Region 9 had the highest death rate (5.2/100,000) and Region 2 the lowest (0.4), with Region 1 just ahead at 0.6.

“Understanding these regional differences in the drugs most frequently involved in drug overdose deaths may help inform prevention and policy efforts,” the investigators wrote.

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