Fentanyl reportedly becoming dominant opioid in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Attorney General, Josh Shapiro released a special report on Monday warning policymakers and the public of the shift from heroin to fentanyl as the dominant opioid for the commonwealth.
According to Shaprio, in 2021, the Pennsylvania Bureau of Narcotics Investigation seized more fentanyl than they had in the last four years combined.
"Last year, we lost 15 Pennsylvanians each and every day to a drug overdose. Law enforcement and policymakers alike must continue to do more to combat this crisis and devote additional resources to stopping fentanyl at the southern border," Shapiro said.
According to the report, the Office of Attorney General Bureau of Narcotics Investigation (BNI) regions seized over double the amount of fentanyl than heroin in 2021.
In the first three months of 2022, BNI seized approximately 40 times the amount of fentanyl compared to heroin and more fentanyl that was seized in all of 2021.
In 2022, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Philadelphia Field Division reported over 20% of its analyzed fentanyl seizures to date were pills or tablets.
The total weight of analyzed fentanyl seizures in Pennsylvania in pill form was five times higher in 2020 compared to 2019. These are strong markers of the transition to counterfeit pills due to their ease of concealment and production, versus powdered fentanyl.
In Pennsylvania, overdose deaths rose by 16.4% in 2020 and continued rising to 5,438 reported overdose deaths in 2021. The CDC stated that synthetic opioids increasingly found in counterfeit pills were some of the primary drivers of the increase in overdose deaths in the last several years.
The DEA stays two milligrams of fentanyl can be a lethal dose and analysis found counterfeit pills can range from .02 to 5.1 milligrams.
The report calls on policymakers to focus on making substance use disorder treatment available to those suffering from addiction and to look at the relative costs and benefits of legalizing fentanyl test strips and other methods of testing drugs to know what is in these complex compounds and reduce overdose deaths.