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Non-Pharmaceutical Fentanyl Linked to Overdose Deaths

Street drug is easy to make and up to 50 times more potent than heroin

FRIDAY, July 25 (HealthDay News) -- Illicitly manufactured non-pharmaceutical fentanyl was associated with 1,013 deaths in six U.S. counties or states from April 2005 to March 2007, according to a report published in the July 25 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

T. Stephen Jones, M.D., of T. Stephen Jones Public Health Consulting in Florence, Mass., and colleagues report on a case-finding and surveillance mechanism that was set up by the CDC in collaboration with law enforcement agencies and public health departments in all of Delaware and New Jersey and counties in Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Pennsylvania.

In most of the deaths, non-pharmaceutical fentanyl was mixed with other drugs such as heroin or cocaine. The incidence of deaths peaked in June 2006 at 150. Data on age and sex of the cases detected were available for 984 decedents, of whom 577 (58.6 percent) were aged 35 to 54 years, and 788 (80.1 percent) were male.

"In response to the non-pharmaceutical fentanyl-related deaths, public health agencies formed task forces; alerted health care providers, law enforcement and drug users; and intensified community outreach to drug users (including hiring additional outreach workers)," the authors write. "In April 2007, the Drug Enforcement Agency began regulating access to N-phenethyl-4-piperidone, a chemical used to manufacture non-pharmaceutical fentanyl."

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