Fentanyl linked to record number of deaths in NY

Fatal drug overdoes have climbed more than 50 percent in the past two years according to city data.

The New York City Health Department has linked death certificates with toxicology findings from the Medical Examiner to warn about the record levels.

The emergence of illicitly manufactured fentanyl (a synthetic, short-acting opioid with 50–100 times the potency of morphine) mixed into heroin, cocaine, and counterfeit pills, with or without the users’ knowledge, has increased the risk for fatal overdose, according to the CDC.

New York City saw a 55% increase in the rate of fatal drug overdose from 2015 to 2017.  Toxicology data indicate that the increase is attributable to fentanyl. 

Since 2013, illicitly manufactured fentanyl has been involved in a growing number of overdose deaths in New York City and has been represented increasingly in seizures of synthetic opioids.

The increased presence of fentanyl in the illicit drug market has implications for overdose prevention efforts; however, national reporting on the presence of fentanyl in overdose deaths is limited by the lack of standardized toxicology testing for fentanyl and the inconsistent listing of fentanyl as a cause of death on death certificates, resulting in underreporting of fentanyl involvement in fatal overdoses. 

Among 10,673 fatal overdoses in NYC during 2000–2014, a total of 7,822 (73%) involved an opioid. Fentanyl was determined to be involved in 246 of these deaths.

Beginning in 2015, the percentage of fentanyl-involved overdose deaths increased sharply; in 2016, 624 (44%) of 1,425 drug overdose deaths involved fentanyl, and in 2017, 842 (57%) of 1,487 overdose deaths involved fentanyl.

From 2014 to 2017, the rate of fentanyl-involved overdose deaths in NYC increased almost 3,000 percent.

This trend is driving the overall increase in the rate of overdose deaths in NYC, which rose 81 percent during the same period.