Seizures of Drugs Containing Illicit Fentanyl Increasing in U.S.

From 2018 to 2021, increases seen in number of fentanyl-containing powder seizures, number of pill seizures

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THURSDAY, March 31, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- From January 2018 through December 2021, there was an increase in the number of fentanyl-containing powder seizures and in the number of pill seizures, according to a study published online March 31 in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Joseph J. Palamar, M.P.H., Ph.D., from the New York University Grossman School of Medicine in New York City, and colleagues examined the number of seizures in the United States involving fentanyl from January 2018 through December 2021 by examining quarterly national seizure data from High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas.

The researchers identified increases in the number of fentanyl-containing powder seizures (from 424 in quarter [Q] 1 of 2018 to 1,539 in Q4 of 2021) and in the number of pill seizures (from 68 to 635). There was more than a twofold increase in the proportion of pills to total seizures, from 13.8 to 29.2 percent in Q1 of 2018 and Q4 of 2021, respectively. During the same period, the weight of powder fentanyl seizures increased from 298.2 to 2,416.0 kg and the number of pills seized increased from 42,202 to 2,089,186, respectively.

"For the first time we can see this rapid rise in pills adulterated with fentanyl, which raises red flags for increasing risk of harm in a population that is possibly less experienced with opioids," Palamar said in a statement. "We absolutely need more harm reduction strategies, such as naloxone distribution and fentanyl test strips, as well as widespread education about the risk of pills that are not coming from a pharmacy."

Two authors disclosed financial ties to the biopharmaceutical and life science industries; one author disclosed receiving personal fees related to litigation.

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Physician’s Briefing Staff

Published on March 31, 2022

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