In 2016, the number of people who died from drug overdoses in the United States topped 64,000 individuals – higher than the number of deaths from motor vehicle accidents at its peak in 1972.
Fentanyl is a driving force in the exponential increases in drug overdose deaths in recent years. Fentanyl and its analogues are synthetic opioids up to hundreds of times as potent as heroin that are increasingly being used to lace heroin and being manufactured to look like other pharmaceuticals. The New York Times has released an article portraying preliminary 2016 drug overdose data from the National Center for Health Statistics in graphs that demonstrate the severity of the opioid epidemic and the dramatic rise in fentanyl deaths in the past three years:
Kentucky has remained in the top five states for drug overdose deaths for the past several years. A number of efforts have been underway to combat the issue, including the State-Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis grant, which Kentucky was recently awarded. The State Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup (SEOW), a collaborative of behavioral health and public health experts and researchers coordinated by REACH Evaluation, is currently examining trends in overdose deaths, opioid prescriptions, and syringe exchange programs to evaluate the implications of these trends and the impact of public health efforts to combat the opioid crisis in Kentucky.