CDC: Fentanyl Urgent Public Health Problem — Pain News Network – August 26, 2016 By Pat Anson, Editor
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is finally acknowledging that the U.S. has a fentanyl problem that is growing worse by the day, and that more people are dying in some states from overdoses of illicit fentanyl than from prescription opioids.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
It is prescribed legally in patches and lozenges to treat chronic pain, but in recent years there has been a surge in overdoses linked to illicit fentanyl obtained on the black market, where it is often mixed with heroin.
In a new analysis of opioid overdoses in 27 states, the CDC identified eight “high burden” states where fentanyl overdoses sharply increased, even though fentanyl prescriptions were relatively stable.
Even the U.S. Surgeon General appears to be neglecting the fentanyl problem.
This week Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, said he would be sending letters to over two million physicians urging them to follow the CDC guidelines and pledge to safely prescribe opioids.
Nowhere in the letter or on a website promoting the “Turn the Tide” campaign is fentanyl even mentioned.
Critics of opioid prescribing have long maintained that opioid pain medication is often a gateway drug to heroin and other illicit substances, but recent research indicates that is not true.
Another recent study of military veterans found there was no significant link between heroin use and legally prescribed opioids or chronic pain.
Further compounding the problem is that some heroin and fentanyl deaths are falsely reported as overdoses from opioid pain medication due to inadequate or nonexistent toxicology tests.