Drug bottles clear vials


There is good news and bad news relating to drugs today.

The bad news: drugs are killing more people than ever. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 72,000 U.S. residents died due to drug overdoses in 2017. This is about 10 percent higher than the number of drug-related deaths in 2016.

Increased numbers of people using drugs are partly behind the increased numbers of fatalities. But, perhaps more telling, the increased fatalities are also due to the deadliness of certain drugs.

The opioid/opiate drug fentanyl is one of these drugs. Fentanyl is particularly dangerous because people often do not know they are even ingesting the drug in the first place. Drug manufacturers sometimes add fentanyl to drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine (meth).

Not all drug manufacturers add fentanyl to other drugs. In fact, in the regions of the United States west of the Mississippi River, drug manufacturers more frequently process drugs such as heroin into a black tar form instead of a powdery form that drug processors often combine with fentanyl.

Because western U.S. drug manufacturers add less fentanyl to drugs, the region has experienced relatively fewer opioid-related overdoses compared to other areas of the country. That’s a positive note in a bleak story.

Another positive note is that although opioid overdoses increased overall in the United States in 2017, the rate of general opioid-related overdoses (overdoses not involving fentanyl) is actually decreasing in some regions, such as parts of New England.

That’s because drugs such as opioids have been problems in those areas for some time. This has prompted authorities to act. The governor’s office of Massachusetts, for example, has increased spending on opioid treatment, such as creating more spots in treatment centers and sober homes.

These government initiatives show that spending money and time to create treatment options can help fight drug addiction.