Opioid watchers say deadly new drug cocktails of fentanyl and uppers are spurring a fourth wave of ‘mass death’ across the US, as voters blame the Biden administration for neglecting the crisis.
Researchers at Chicago’s Northwestern University project a ‘fourth wave’ of opioid deaths will ravage US cities and rural areas alike, exacerbating a problem that has already claimed some 500,000 lives over the last two decades.
The study comes as police across the US discover new and deadlier versions of the pills and as the Biden administration faces criticism for idling in a crisis and failing to secure the southern border from traffickers.
Lori Post, co-author of the report, said she was ‘sounding the alarm’ on Thursday because the already-high rates of overdose death were rising further due to next-generation cocktails of opioids and uppers.
‘Not only is the death rate from an opioid at an all-time high, but the acceleration of that death rate signals explosive exponential growth that is even larger than an already historic high,’ said Post.
Chicago-based researchers say deadly new drug cocktails of fentanyl and uppers are spurring a fourth wave of ‘mass death’ across the US
Police in Pennsylvania carry Narcan to treat opioid addicts, but the rapid overdose-reversing drugs do not work on the powerful new combinations of fentanyl and uppers that have hit the streets
Her study of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from 2019 and 2020 showed a ‘fourth wave’ of opioid deaths across cities, suburbs, towns and rural areas that was ‘worse than it’s ever been before’ and would lead to ‘mass death’ , she said.
The opioid epidemic is shifting from prescription painkillers like Percocet and Oxycodone in the early 2000s to heroin and then in the mid-2010s to fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller some 50-100 times stronger than morphine, says the report.
The US is entering a ‘fourth wave’, it adds, with addicts nowadays overdosing on lethal cocktails of carfentanil — another synthetic opioid itself some 100 times more potent than fentanyl — mixed with cocaine and methamphetamines.
These cocktails are so powerful that even rapid overdose-reversing drugs like naloxone do not work.
Police in Colorado last week announced the discovery of potent opioids trading under the street name ‘Pyro’. Mesa County Sheriff’s Office said the light blue pills were marked with the letter ‘M’ and the number 30.
Utah Highway Patrol troopers on Tuesday arrested a 21-year-old driver after discovering a holdall stuffed with 190lbs of similar blue M-30 fentanyl pills worth $1.7 million, as well cocaine and methamphetamine, according to St George News.
Health officials in Oregon this month said drug overdose deaths there had more than doubled between 2019 and 2021, driven largely by misuse of the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, and requested urgent supplies of the rescue drug naloxone.
Celebrities like rapper Eminem have told of their battles with prescription painkillers. Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died from a drug cocktail overdose in 2014; two years later, legendary performer Prince died of a fentanyl overdose
Senator Susan Collins this week said the overdose epidemic in her state, Maine, was the ‘worst it’s ever been’, with a 9 percent increase to more than 9,500 deaths last year, more than three quarters of them due to fentanyl.
‘What we’re doing is not working,’ said Collins, as she lashed out at the Biden administration for an open-door policy that left border patrols managing immigrant flows rather than combating drug traffickers.
‘Our inability to secure the southern border has an adverse impact and contributes directly to our inability to stop the flow of drugs into this country,’ the Republican told a health panel in Washington.
Collins says at least a tenth of drug overdoses were among the elderly. She and Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland have introduced a bill to address challenges that Medicare beneficiaries face when seeking treatment for addiction.
She echoed the concerns of many Americans, who say by a four-to-one margin that America’s opioid drug problem was getting worse, not better, and that President Joe Biden was doing enough to stop it, according to pollsters Rasmussen Reports.
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre recently said the administration was using technology to ramp up the fight against cross-border crime gangs and ‘traffickers of deadly opioids on the dark web’.
Biden spoke on Thursday with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping about tensions over Taiwan. He was under pressure to raise fentanyl smuggling from China, which has been blamed in part for the surge in US overdose deaths to 107,000 last year.
Opioid prescriptions have fallen about 40 percent this past decade amid restrictions by hospitals, insurers and state officials. But deaths tied to the medications remain at 13,000 to 14,000 per year.
Studies show people who become addicted to opioids continue to start with prescription opioids, before switching to cheaper heroin and illegally made fentanyl and then deadlier next-generation drug cocktails.
Celebrities like rapper Eminem have told of their battles with prescription painkillers. Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died from a drug cocktail overdose in 2014; two years later, legendary performer Prince died of a fentanyl overdose.
A heroin user on the street in New York. The opioid epidemic has shifted from prescription painkillers like Percocet and Oxycodone in the early 2000s to heroin and then in the mid-2010s to fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller some 50-100 times stronger than morphine
Fentanyl-laced fake oxycodone pills collected during an investigation in Utah. Police have recently discovered potent blue-colored opioid pills trading under the street name ‘Pyro’