Sean Blake, Kim Blake’s son, passed away from an unintentional fentanyl overdose in Burlington, Vermont, six years ago. He was 27 at the time.
“Every time I hear of a loss to substance use, my heart breaks a little more,” Ms. Blake wrote in a blog post devoted to her son in 2021.
“Another family broke apart. mourning the loss of celebrations and hopes forever.
A terrible milestone was reached in the US during that year: for the first time ever, drug overdoses claimed more than 100,000 lives nationwide in a single calendar year.
More than 66% of those fatalities were tied.
Fentanyl has essentially affected every region of the US, from Hawaii to Alaska to Rhode Island.
According to the data, the increase in fentanyl-related fatalities started to be seen in 2015.
Since then, the drug has proliferated throughout the US, and the death rate has drastically increased.
According to co-author of the report Chelsea Shover, an assistant professor at UCLA’s school of medicine, “in 2018, about 80% of fentanyl overdoses happened east of the Mississippi river.”
However, in 2019, “fentanyl becomes part of the drug supply in the Western US, and suddenly this population that had been insulated from it is exposed, and death rates start to go up,” Prof. Shover said.
In their study, the researchers sound the alarm on another growing trend: deaths related to the use of fentanyl and another stimulant drug, like cocaine or methamphetamine.
This trend is being observed across the US, albeit in different ways owing to drug use patterns that differ from region to region.
For example, researchers found higher death rates related to the use of fentanyl and cocaine in north-eastern US states, like Vermont and Connecticut, where cocaine has been traditionally more available.
But for virtually everywhere else in the country, from West Virginia to California, deaths were primarily driven by the use of both methamphetamines and fentanyl.