The number of fatalities related to the drug was quite stable between 2011 and 2012 and hovering around 1,600 deaths in both these years. In 2013, the number rose to just over 1,900 deaths.
Beginning in 2014, fentanyl-related deaths began to double each year. In 2014, fentanyl was involved in 4,223 deaths. In 2015, there were 8,251 deaths. And in 2016, fentanyl-related deaths jumped to 18,335.
The report of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also analyzed who was most affected by the fentanyl epidemic.
The researchers, who are part of the National Center for Health Statistics, found that while men and women had similar fentanyl-related deaths from 2011 to 2013, which began to change. In 2016, the number of men who died of fentanyl overdoses was almost three times the size of women.
And while there were increases in fentanyl-related deaths in all age groups, the largest rate increases were among younger adults aged 15 and 34. The number of 15 to 24-year-olds who died of fentanyl overdoses increased about 94% each year between 2011 and 2016 and about 100% each year for 25- to 34-year-olds.
Researchers also found that while whites had the highest total fentanyl deaths, deaths among blacks and Hispanics grew faster. Between 2011 and 2016, black fentanyl death rates increased 140.6% annually and Hispanics had an increase of 118.3% annually.
Scientists analyzed death certificate data containing reviews of fentanyl and fentanyl analogs. Previous analyzes had not only seen fentanyl specifically, but overall synthetic opioids.