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The opioid epidemic didn’t go away. It has gotten worse

A 30-percent increase doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There were several reasons for this dramatic shift. The biggest driver for opioid overdoses in recent years is the proliferation of illicitly manufactured fentanyl, says Deni Carise, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer of Recovery Centers of America.  

Pharmaceutical fentanyl has seen a reduction in prescriptions from doctors in the last few years thanks to the physician drug monitoring program, according to CDC data. However, Carise says illicitly manufactured fentanyl remains a huge challenge. Jeffery notes that disruptions in the drug supply chain during COVID may have also likely contributed to an increase in the supply of fentanyl in the formula of several drugs, not just heroin.  

“Many of these illicitly manufactured fentanyl products are laced into cocaine, amphetamines, and even marijuana, often without the buyer’s knowledge. That actually started to tick up in 2019, but it got worse last year,” says Carise. “The field in general—people in treatment and recovery—were profoundly impacted by the pandemic.” 

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