September 30, 2023

Dangerous Trend: Growing Number of Pills Containing Fentanyl Seized by Law Enforcement

NIH-supported research study highlights growing, hazardous pattern, especially for individuals brand-new to drug use.
Law enforcement seizures of pills containing illegal fentanyl increased drastically in between January 2018 and December 2021, according to a brand-new research study. The number of private pills seized by law enforcement increased almost 50-fold from the first quarter of 2018 to the last quarter of 2021 and the proportion of pills to overall seizures more than doubled, with tablets representing over a quarter of illicit fentanyl seizures by the end of 2021. The research study also discovered an increase in the number of fentanyl-containing powder seizures during this time.

While individuals may seek out illicit fentanyl deliberately, numerous individuals are not conscious that the drug they are using– including heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, or benzodiazepines– may really be fentanyl, or has actually been adulterated or contaminated with fentanyl. Because fentanyl is about 50 times more potent than heroin and a lethal dosage may be as little as two milligrams, utilizing a drug that has been laced with fentanyl can considerably increase overdose threat.
Illicitly produced powder fentanyl has actually been a known adulterant in drugs since 2013, however the extent that fentanyl is discovered in counterfeit tablets has actually been mostly unidentified. HIDTA data does not distinguish between fentanyl and its analogs, nor approximate the amount of fentanyl present in seized substances; however, provided the small quantity necessary for an overdose, the authors keep in mind that the existence of any fentanyl is a crucial sign of overdose threat. People who acquire fake drugs, such as illegal oxycodone, hydrocodone, or benzodiazepines may be at threat for unintentional direct exposure to fentanyl, which is associated with increased danger of overdose death.

This study was published today in Drug and Alcohol Dependence and moneyed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health. According to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information, the United States hit a record high in the variety of overdose deaths ever taped, approximating that almost 106,000 people died from drug overdoses in the 12-month period ending in October 2021. This rise is mostly driven by illicit fentanyl and other artificial opioids.
Illegal fentanyl is extremely potent, cheaply made and easily carried, making it a successful narcotic. While individuals may look for illicit fentanyl deliberately, many individuals are not aware that the drug they are utilizing– consisting of heroin, drug, methamphetamine, or benzodiazepines– might actually be fentanyl, or has been adulterated or infected with fentanyl. Since fentanyl has to do with 50 times more powerful than heroin and a deadly dosage may be as little as 2 milligrams, using a drug that has been laced with fentanyl can considerably increase overdose threat.
Variety of pills containing fentanyl taken by law enforcement in the United States, 2018-2021. Credit: National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIH
” A boost in illegal pills consisting of fentanyl points to a significantly harmful and new duration in the United States,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. “Pills are typically taken or snorted by people who are more naïve to substance abuse, and who have lower tolerances. When a pill is infected with fentanyl, as is now typically the case, poisoning can quickly happen.”
Illicitly manufactured powder fentanyl has been a recognized adulterant in drugs given that 2013, however the degree that fentanyl is found in fake pills has been mostly unknown. To address this question, a team led by Joseph J. Palamar, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and co-investigator on the NIDA-funded National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS), evaluated information on drug seizures by police. The data were gathered between January of 2018 and December of 2021 from the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, a grant program focused on decreasing drug trafficking and misuse administered by the Office of National Drug Control Policy in which the Drug Enforcement Administration and the CDC play an active role.
Comparing data from the very first quarter of 2018 with the last quarter of 2021, the team discovered that the variety of seizures of pills containing fentanyl increased from 68 to 635, and the total variety of private tablets taken by police increased from 42,202 to 2,089,186. Seizures of powder including fentanyl likewise increased from 424 to 1,539, and the total weight of powder seized increased from 298.2 kg to 2,416.0 kg.
Unlike many study information and monitoring systems which can be lagged for a year or more, HIDTA data are made readily available quarterly, enabling evaluation in almost genuine time. HIDTA also compare the existence of fentanyl in pill or powder kind. Analyzing these information can for that reason assist identify trends in accessibility of illegal compounds and serve as a type of early warning system to shift public health education or interventional resources more rapidly.
HIDTA data does not separate in between fentanyl and its analogs, nor estimate the quantity of fentanyl present in taken compounds; however, given the small quantity required for an overdose, the authors note that the existence of any fentanyl is an important indicator of overdose risk. People who purchase fake drugs, such as illegal oxycodone, hydrocodone, or benzodiazepines might be at risk for unintentional exposure to fentanyl, which is related to increased risk of overdose death. Further, people who use these types of pills are less likely to have actually a tolerance built to opioids, and when combined with the sedative effects of non-fentanyl opioids or benzodiazepines, might even more increase risk of overdose and death.
” For the first time we can see this rapid increase in pills adulterated with fentanyl, which raises red flags for increasing threat of damage in a population that is potentially less experienced with opioids,” stated Dr. Palamar. “We definitely require more harm decrease techniques, such as naloxone circulation and fentanyl test strips, in addition to extensive education about the risk of tablets that are not originating from a pharmacy. The instant message here is that tablets unlawfully gotten can include fentanyl.”
The researchers highlight that drug seizure rates are not direct steps of actual drug accessibility. The increase in fentanyl-related drug seizures coincides with increasing artificial opioid-related overdose death rates. These data likewise prove information from the DEA National Forensic Laboratory Information System showing a steady boost in fentanyl seizures in the last few years, even throughout the earlier parts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
” To resolve the overdose crisis, you need real-time, top quality drug surveillance data to inform the public health reaction,” stated Linda B. Cottler, Ph.D., M.P.H, primary investigator of NDEWS, and last author on the paper. “Through collecting and sharing data on drug use trends as we do through our NIDA-funded NDEWS, we aim to direct methods to curb the overdose crisis these days, while also keeping our eye on the horizon to prepare for the problems of tomorrow.”
Referral: “Trends in seizures of powders and tablets including illegal fentanyl in the United States, 2018 through 2021” by JJ Palamar, et al., 31 March 2022, Drug and Alcohol Dependence.DOI: 10.1016/ j.drugalcdep.2022.109398.