Dec 13, 2018

Fentanyl is the deadliest drug in the U.S.

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday confirmed what experts have been warning: Fentanyl is not only deadly on its own, but is also contributing to other drugs' high death rates.

The big picture: As the nation's addiction crisis has unfolded, the No. 1 cause of overdose deaths has shifted from prescription drugs to heroin to fentanyl. And now cocaine — a stimulant, making it the odd man out — is also seeing a spike.

  • Many overdose deaths involve more than one drug, and fentanyl crops up in a lot of those cases.

What they're saying: "Fentanyl overdose deaths, of course, keep going up. Cocaine overdose deaths [are] going up. The question we really have to get to the bottom of is: Is much of that [from] the lacing of cocaine with fentanyl? We certainly have seen some of that," HHS Secretary Alex Azar said at an Axios event yesterday.

By the numbers: While only about 1,600 overdose deaths were attributable to fentanyl in 2011 and 2012, this skyrocketed to more than 18,000 in 2016.

  • About 40% of deaths attributed to cocaine overdoses also involved fentanyl, according to the CDC, as did 37% of heroin deaths and 19% of deadly oxycodone overdoses.

Related: Fentanyl is so potent (and so easy to smuggle into the U.S.) that now experts are worried about it as a potential weapon for terrorists, Bloomberg's Anna Edney reports.

  • “Fentanyl-based drugs have been used in conflicts in other countries, so we know it’s possible," said Rick Bright, the director of the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

Go deeper ... Trump: Deal with China on fentanyl a "game changer"

Go deeper

Updated 49 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 6,325,303 — Total deaths: 377,460 — Total recoveries — 2,727,679Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 1,820,523 — Total deaths: 105,644 — Total recoveries: 458,231 — Total tested: 17,340,682Map.
  3. Public health: Protests against police brutality threaten coronavirus response — Controlling the virus in nursing homes won't be easy.
  4. Business: More than 1 in 6 black workers lost jobs between February and April.
  5. Climate: The alarm over climate financial risk gets louder because of coronavirus.
  6. Media: Interest in the George Floyd protests has soared past the coronavirus.

Updates: George Floyd protests nationwide

Police officers wearing riot gear push back demonstrators outside of the White House on Monday. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images

Protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people continued across the U.S., inciting a federal response from President Trump, the National Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.

The latest: Immigration agents have been deployed to assist federal, state and local law enforcement. The U.S. Secret Service closed the streets immediately on all four sides of the White House Tuesday, until "riots become peaceful, or stop."

NASA passes the torch

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

With the historic crewed SpaceX launch last weekend, NASA passed the torch to private companies that will need to step up to build the economy the space agency envisions in orbit.

Why it matters: This new era of spaceflight will likely be marked by new conflicts — possibly including product placement (like the Tesla that drove the astronauts to the pad on Saturday), safety concerns and cultural differences between companies, the space agencies and people they serve.