A new study found that from 2015 to 2017, the number of fentanyl-related deaths rose sharply while deaths involving prescription opioids began to decline.
In a press release, the researchers from West Virginia University said deaths related to fentanyl skyrocketed in 2015 likely in part due to a surge in illegal fentanyl imports from Mexico. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is easy to export. Drug users may also unknowingly ingest fentanyl when it is sold as counterfeit prescription opioids or blended into heroin.
The research from WVU was added into a statewide forensic drug database that aids health care providers and law enforcement efforts to combat the disease, according to a press release.
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, CDC and the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute.
Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from Marshall Health and Charleston Area Medical Center.