Overdose deaths in 2017 from the drugs fentanyl, cocaine, and heroin rank highest in the Eastern United States, while higher rates of drug overdose deaths involving methamphetamine were prevalent in the Western part of the nation.
Using 2017 figures, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report on Oct. 25 (pdf) focusing on the geographic breakdown of deaths by drugs, their findings provide critical regional differences to guide local prevention and policy efforts.
In the year of study, 70,237 drug overdose deaths were recorded in the United States. Fentanyl was involved in 39 percent of the deaths, followed by heroin, 23 percent, cocaine, 21 percent, and methamphetamine 13 percent, rounding out the top four drugs involved in overdoses across the nation.
The Center said that age-adjusted rates of drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl were higher in regions east of the Mississippi River. The rates for overdose deaths involved methamphetamine were “higher in the West.”
Previous CDC reports have charted meth’s increasing toll, noting that it rose from eighth to fourth in just four years. Preliminary data also indicate that meth overdoses have increased.
The new report found dramatic differences in 10 regions divided by the Department of Health and Human Services. For example, In New England, fentanyl had the highest adjusted overdose death rate and meth was a distant 11th on the list. In the region that includes the mountain states and the Dakotas, meth was No. 1 and fentanyl was sixth.
The agency also found that nine of the top 10 drugs most often recorded in drug overdose deaths in 2017 were the same as those previously reported between 2011–2016. The nine drugs were opioids fentanyl, heroin, hydrocodone, methadone, morphine, and oxycodone; the benzodiazepine alprazolam; and the stimulants cocaine and methamphetamine.
China And Fentanyl
China has been identified as the largest and primary source of illicit fentanyl and fentanyl analogs entering the United States, according to government commissions (pdf), law enforcement, and testimony (pdf) from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Almost 70 percent (pdf) of fentanyl seized by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) last year arrived via international mail—much of it originating from China and delivered mostly by air, according to testimony from nonprofit think tank Rand Corp.
On Oct. 1, three Chinese nationals were charged with importing and distributing fentanyl as part of an international drug operation they ran with other distributors, including a former county deputy sheriff in Pennsylvania, U.S. authorities said.
The three defendants—Deyao Chen, Guichun Chen, and Liangtu Pan—allegedly ran websites located in China to sell the fentanyl. Five individuals from Illinois, Ohio, Georgia, and Tennessee later overdosed and died as a result of the defendants’ distribution of the drug.
The charges, experts told The Epoch Times, are the latest sign that the Chinese Communist Party is using the trafficking and production of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, as part of an organized strategy and form of drug warfare.
Jeff Nyquist, an author and researcher of Chinese and Russian strategy, said corruption is the “overriding element” governing why Beijing is engaging in drug warfare. He said that fentanyl trafficking ultimately leads to the infiltration of the United States.
“Poisoning people with drugs is not the No. 1 reason, according to communist sources. They do it because it causes a lot of money to be generated—illegal money which then can be used to bribe,” he said in a phone call.
U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain, who announced the charges, said in a statement:
“Make no mistake: China is waging an undeclared war on our country and our American way of life, with deadly drugs serving as its weapon of choice,” said U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain in a statement. “China is supplying the United States with the most potent and deadly fentanyl and other synthetic opioids on the market today.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report