The Hard-to-Trace Ingredient Behind Skyrocketing Cocaine Deaths

The Atlantic - In the United States, more people are dying because of synthetic drugs like fentanyl than because of heroin or prescribed painkillers. While, to many, the opioid crisis has been synonymous with heroin and prescription pills, a report published Tuesday in JAMA Psychiatry builds the case that the class of synthetic drug is increasingly making its way into other drugs like cocaine and leading to overdoses. From 2010 to 2016, more and more overdose deaths have been found to be caused, at least in part, by drugs like fentanyl.

In a way, this isn’t exactly news. The same data the study used was reported on late last year with the shocking headlines that synthetic opioids like fentanyl have overtaken heroin as the source of opioid deaths. But, according to Wilson Compton, one of the new report’s authors, his study zeroes in on a particularly insidious aspect of the drug: the increased risk it poses to people who seek out drugs like cocaine and Xanax and end up with fentanyl-laced products that could kill them in as fast as a few minutes. For example, in 2016, nearly a third of the people in the United States who were declared dead from overdosing on benzodiazepines—drugs like Xanax and valium—had also ingested fentanyl or something like it.

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