Expert Voices

Synthetic opioid crisis still growing, often among unwitting users

a labeled plastic bag of fentanyl powder
A bag of fentanyl seized by law enforcement. Photo: David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Although opioid prescriptions in the U.S. have fallen, opioid overdose deaths — 47,000 in 2018 — remain at historic levels. The continued spread of fentanyl and other illicitly manufactured synthetic opioids suggest the problem could still get worse.

The big picture: Inexpensive and widely available on the internet, fentanyl is attractive to dealers who make counterfeit prescription pills or mix it into heroin. Fentanyl, however, is extremely potent, leading more users to fatally overdose.

Federal judge approves first safe U.S. injection site in Philadelphia

People advocating for the safe injection site in Philadelphia.
People advocating for the safe injection site in Philadelphia. Photo: Cory Clark/NurPhoto/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that a 1986 law designed to ban "crack houses" does not apply to a Philadelphia nonprofit's proposal to open the nation's first supervised injection site, per the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Why it matters: The decision addresses a legal debate occurring in several U.S. cities that have approved or considered approving facilities for people with drug addictions to inject themselves in a supervised environment.