Combinations Of Fentanyl And Other Drugs Add New Dimension To Devastating Overdose Epidemic
Loaded Syringe and Opioids - stock photo An injectable drug is loaded into a syringe while prescription medication is strewn about haphazardly. Darwin Brandis via Getty Images
Darwin Brandis via Getty Images

While methamphetamine has been a problem in the United States for a long time, there is a rising concern about fentanyl use and fatal overdoses. However, the two drugs combined are adding another layer to the crisis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “[o]ver 150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.” Now, there is an increasing number of overdoses that are being caused by a combination of multiple drugs.

Last year, 20% of the total fatal overdoses included an opioid like fentanyl and a psychostimulant, such as meth, according to preliminary federal information, per The Wall Street Journal. Ten years before that, those combinations only made up around 2% of fatal overdoses.

While using any of these drugs on their own poses serious health risks and even death, meth can lead to deadly heart damage, hallucinations, and erratic actions.

Last year, around two-thirds of people who died while using psychostimulants also had opioids in their systems, but that isn’t always intentional. Sometimes the drug they intended to consume is laced with something else, or there’s cross-contamination where the drugs are produced.

There is also an increase in overdose deaths across the board. Federal data revealed that last year, around 33,400 deaths involved psychostimulants, which was an increase of more than 340% from five years before. In the same amount of time, fatalities involving synthetic opioids increased 270% and total drug fatalities also rose 71%.

As psychostimulant deaths have become more common, so have deaths that also involved opioids. Last year, around 75% of meth-related fatalities in the state of North Carolina also involved fentanyl.

Meth and fentanyl usage has both surged across the country and are spreading into new regions. For example, drug traffickers are pushing meth into the northeast and fentanyl availability is increasing in western states where meth once dominated.

There is also more fentanyl and meth being smuggled across the border. For example, a Mexican national was recently sentenced to prison for his involvement in an attempted smuggling of meth and fentanyl. The seizure was the country’s biggest for each drug for the calendar years 2021 and 2022 as of last month. The trafficking attempt included more than 17,000 pounds of meth and about 389 pounds of fentanyl.

This month, border officers found 26 pounds of meth and 10 pounds of fentanyl in El Paso in the same smuggling effort. Port Director Ray Provencio said that it’s not normal to find huge quantities of two different hard drugs, but dual smuggling is becoming more common.

As of October, Border Patrol agents from the San Francisco sector had seized more than 1,000 pounds of fentanyl since the start of this fiscal year, which is a 200% increase from the last year. While fentanyl seizures are more of a recent trend, the inflow of meth has been a problem for much longer. 

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