National Vital Statistics System Study Shows Fentanyl is Responsible for Most Overdose Deaths Regardless of Race, Sex, or Location

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control National Center for Health Statistics published a study reviewing overdose death data. The study utilized the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) to examine overdose death rates with fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and oxycodone. The researchers focused on mortality data to include unintentional, suicide, homicide, and undetermined intent as cause of death indicators and analyzed the data by race, sex, age, and public health region. The research found that methamphetamine, fentanyl, and cocaine overdose deaths increased from 2016-2021 and oxycodone overdose deaths decreased for the same period. Of all of these substances, fentanyl was the most common cause of overdose deaths; this remains true across race, sex, and location. Of note, men were 2.6 times more likely than women to die of a fentanyl overdose and Indigenous communities had the highest percentage (33%) of overdose deaths caused by fentanyl. After fentanyl, methamphetamine, followed by cocaine, were the most common causes of overdose death for individuals ages 25-44, and for individuals ages 45-64, it was cocaine, then methamphetamine. Interestingly, although individuals ages 0-24 and 65+ had a higher fentanyl overdose death rate, it was not significantly higher than those caused by other drugs.

Articles & Resources

NVSS Vital Statistics Rapid Release—Estimates of Drug Overdose Deaths Involving Fentanyl, Methamphetamine, Cocaine, Heroin, and Oxycodone: United States 2021

House and Senate Introduce Legislation to Study Xylazine and Other Emerging Substances

In the last year, the misuse of xylazine has become a significant public health concern, resulting in a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) safety alert, countless media pieces, and policymakers searching for solutions. Also known by the street name “Tranq”, xylazine is a sedative approved for veterinary use that has become increasingly common as an added component to illegally-produced opioids. To help address this threat, the bipartisan Testing, Rapid Analysis, and Narcotic Quality Research Act (TRANQ Act) was introduced in the House of Representatives in March and the Senate at the end of April to require the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to support research related to xylazine and other emerging narcotic threats. The bill would require NIST to assist in best practices for handling substances like xylazine and collaborate with government agencies, the private sector, and higher education to develop and enhance detection and analysis capabilities. The bill also requires NIST to report a year after the enactment discussing implementation and provide recommendations for legislative action and continued congressional support.

Articles & Resources

Bill Text—H.R. 1734

Bill Text—S.1280

What We Read Last Week

Several articles were published last week pertaining to the opioid epidemic, covering a variety of different components of the topic. Links to relevant articles are provided below.

Brown University—Brown Researchers to Study Ability of Rhode Island’s First Overdose Prevention Center to Counter Overdose Crisis

CDC—Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR): Medication for Opioid Use Disorder During Pregnancy—Maternal and Infant Network to Understand Outcomes Associated with the Use of Medication for Opioid Use Disorder During Pregnancy (MAT-LINK), 2014-2021

DEA—DEA, SAMHSA, Extend Telemedicine Flexibilities for Prescribing Controlled Medications for Six Months While Considering Comments from the Public

Health Affairs—Buprenorphine Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder: Comparison of Insurance Restrictions, 2017-21

JAMA Open Network—Buprenorphine Utilization and Prescribing Among New Jersey Medicaid Beneficiaries After Adoption of Initiatives Designed to Improve Treatment Access

JAMA Pediatrics—National Trends in Pediatric Deaths from Fentanyl, 1999-2021

The Lancet Psychiatry—Buprenorphine Versus Methadone for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised and Observational Studies

STAT—To Ease Start of Addiction Treatment, Doctors Find Surprise Aid: Ketamine

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis—Discovery Suggests Route to Safer Pain Medications

This Week’s Calendar

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Primary Health and Retirement Subcommittee Hearing: “A Crisis in Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Care: Closing Gaps in Access by Bringing Care and Prevention to Communities.”
Wednesday, May 17; 10:00 a.m.; Hearing Notice

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