The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blamed fentanyl for the steep increase in 2016 drug deaths among African Americans, dispelling the common perception of the drug death epidemic as mainly a White problem, The New York Times reported.
In Cleveland, the skyrocketing rate of fentanyl-related deaths in the Black community likely stems from drug dealers adding fentanyl to cocaine, Ohio’s Cuyahoga County medical examiner, Dr. Thomas Gilson, told a U.S. Senate subcommittee in May.
The CDC released its study on Thursday, which categorizes 2016 drug deaths along racial and geographic lines for the first time. It shows that drug deaths among African Americans living in urban counties increased by 41 percent last year—the highest among all racial or ethnic groups. The drug death rate among Whites in the same counties increased by 19 percent. Blacks between ages 45 and 64 were impacted the most. Many of the victims had heroin addictions that began in the 1970s. Today, the supply of heroin is increasingly mixed with fentanyl, or fentanyl is sold to addicts as heroin, Dr. Andrew Kolodny, an opioid policy expert, told the newspaper. In other cases, dealers are lacing cocaine with fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that’s like morphine, typically used to help patients manage pain after surgery, but is 50 to 100 times more potent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It goes by many different street names: Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfella, Jackpot, Murder 8, TNT, and Tango and Cash. Non-pharmaceutical fentanyl is sold in multiple forms: powder, spiked on blotter paper or tablets.