The overdose crisis in the US has seen a significant increase in drug overdose deaths, with fentanyl-laced stimulants fueling the fourth wave. This surge in overdose deaths, which accounted for 32% of fatal overdoses in 2021, is attributed to the use of fentanyl combined with stimulants.
The rise in fentanyl stimulant fatalities is the fourth wave in the opioid overdose crisis, which began with an increase in deaths from prescription opioids in the early 2000s and heroin in 2010.
The study, published in the journal Addiction, found that the percentage of overdose deaths in that 12-year span involving both fentanyl and stimulants jumped from 0.6% (235 deaths) in 2010 to 32.3% (34,429 deaths) in 2021. This reflects intentional co-use and unintentional use of fentanyl and stimulants.
The study also found that fentanyl/stimulant overdose deaths disproportionately affect racial/ethnic minority communities in the US, including Black and African American people and Native American people. Geographic patterns to fentanyl/stimulant use are also evident, with fentanyl often combined with cocaine in the Northeast US and methamphetamine in the southern and western US. The landscape of polysubstance overdose has been evolving rapidly, and the current results may represent snapshots of shifting dynamics that will soon change.