Fentanyl overdoses rose sharply from 2016 to 2017, fueling surge in deaths from U.S. opioid epidemic

by Jim Orr

A report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that the number of deadly fentanyl overdoses in the U.S. doubled between late 2016 and mid-2017. During that period, the agency found that fentanyl or fentanyl analogues were responsible for almost half of all opioid deaths in the U.S.

The CDC study analyzed the number of opioid overdoses in the U.S. between July 2016 and June 2017 in Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The study found that from July-December 2016, fentanyl and similar drugs were responsible for 764 deaths across these 10 states; from January-June 2017, the agency discovered that these drugs caused 1,511 overdose deaths, nearly twice the number over the previous six month period.

Other studies have shown that fentanyl overdoses have not only increased in quantity, but are also representing an increasingly large percentage of the total number of opioid overdoses in the U.S. According to a recent study released by the American Medical Association, in 2016, about 46% of opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. were linked to fentanyl. According to researchers, fentanyl overdoses represented only about 13% of all fatal opioid overdoses in 2013.

Fentanyl’s Role in the U.S. Opioid Epidemic

Fentanyl is an extremely powerful opioid painkiller whose potency is about 80-100 times stronger than morphine. Because of its extreme potency, the drug is only intended for patients with extreme pain, such as cancer patients, and patients who have developed a tolerance for opioid medications.

The illicit use of fentanyl in the U.S. has grown increasingly widespread during the last several years as federal health authorities have cracked down on supplies of opioid painkillers that helped fuel the nationwide opioid epidemic. As supplies of hydrocodone, oxycodone, and other opioid pills became harder to come by, many opioid users switch to more potent drugs, first to heroin, and later to fentanyl, carfentanil, or other synthetic opioids.

As a result of this switch to synthetic opioids, the CDC says that it expects the annual death toll from the opioid epidemic to continue to climb. The agency says that it expects the number of overdose deaths caused by opioid painkillers to climb to an all-time high of 49,000 for 2017. The agency says that much of that increase can be attributed to the increased use of synthetic opioids. Fentanyl and similar drugs caused about 20,000 deaths in 2016, but are expected to be linked to 29,000 deaths once the final numbers from 2017 are tallied by the CDC.

Fentanyl Overdose Lawsuits Filed by Heygood, Orr & Pearson

If you have lost a loved one to an overdose caused by fentanyl or other opioid drugs, you may qualify to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the drug, the doctor who prescribed it, or the pharmacy or distributor that issued the prescription. The first step in taking legal action is to consult with an attorney who can advise you regarding your legal rights and guide you through the first steps of filing a case.

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson has filed dozens of lawsuits on behalf of victims of opioid overdoses. Our law firm has handled more lawsuits involving fentanyl than all other law firms in the country combined. Heygood, Orr & Pearson has also filed hundreds of lawsuits on behalf of patients who have been injured by other dangerous drugs or defective medical products.

For more information about the fentanyl lawsuits filed by Heygood, Orr & Pearson – and to find out whether you may qualify to file a case – contact our law office by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by following the link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few simple questions to get started.

by Jim Orr

Jim Orr is a licensed attorney and a partner at HO&P focusing on business and personal injury litigation. Jim was selected multiple times to the Super Lawyers List and has tried 70+ cases to verdict.