DENVER (KDVR) — COVID claims more bodies, but synthetic opioid-related deaths are have created a sub-pandemic in the Centennial State.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency issued a warning Monday about a nationwide spike in lethal counterfeit prescription pills containing either methamphetamine or the synthetic opioid fentanyl.
“These counterfeit pills have been seized by DEA in every U.S. state in unprecedented quantities,” reads the report. “More than 9.5 million counterfeit pills were seized so far this year, which is more than the last two years combined. DEA laboratory testing reveals a dramatic rise in the number of counterfeit pills containing at least two milligrams of fentanyl, which is considered a lethal dose. A deadly dose of fentanyl is small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil.”
In Colorado, fentanyl has driven a surge in overdoses only in the last few years.
Preliminary figures say the monthly number of fentanyl overdoses has gone up eightfold in three years.
In may 2018, there were nine. In may 2021, there were 74.
This has driven an overall spike in overdoses.
In 2018, only an average 10% of overdoses were fentanyl-related. In July 2021, 48% were.
These fentanyl-related overdoses drive a statewide upswing in the overall number of overdoses and the rate of overdoses per population.
Since 2010, the annual number of overdoses has a more than doubled, from 653 in 2010 to 1,477 in 2020. In 2010, less than half of these overdoses were opioids. In 2020, two-thirds were.
It isn’t just a numbers increase, either.
In five years, the rate of drug overdoses climbed. There were 6.9 overdoses per 100,000 Coloradans in 2015. By 2020, it had climbed by three people.
Drug overdoses now account for the single largest slice of Denver’s accidental deaths. Fifty-four percent of accidental deaths were overdoses in 2020.