The nation is reporting a record number of drug overdose deaths in 2018. And the government’s acting drug czar said this week that 2018 is set to be the deadliest year for drug overdose deaths in U.S. history.
“This is the most gruesome year we’ve seen in this country. And I’m really afraid that 2019 may be more gruesome,” Chuck Rosenberg said Wednesday, Dec. 19, in a teleconference with reporters, according to a transcript of the call. He added that overdose deaths are coming from more than just one drug, though, so the government is watching “family impacts … what’s happening in Houston, what’s happening in Baltimore.”
The latest Drug Enforcement Administration statistics released Thursday show there were 48,858 drug overdose deaths in 2018, a 5.5 percent increase over the previous year. Rosenberg called it a “very distressing trend” and a “scary, disturbing data point.”
The amount of fentanyl — which can be 50 times stronger than heroin and can be fatal — seized by the DEA this year, meanwhile, have increased exponentially, according to earlier DEA figures.
Overall, the amount of fentanyl seized by the DEA in 2018 is the most in a single year ever, according to DEA figures provided in a press release, and has doubled since 2010. In the first nine months of this year, federal agents have seized $88.6 million worth of fentanyl, which averages out to close to 527 kilograms, a rise of 300 percent over the same period last year.
Fentanyl that was seized in 2018 was just 25 percent pure at the time, according to Rosenberg. But after the seizure, he said, the amount of fentanyl that was seized could be increased to nearly 50 percent pure.