Back in 2011, oxycodone was the drug most commonly linked to overdose deaths.
Starting in 2012 and lasting until 2015, heroin surpassed painkillers to become the drug most often involved.
But then fentanyl, a synthetic opioid pain reliever 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, infiltrated the American drug supply — what the CDC calls "the third wave" of the opioid epidemic.
The authors of the report identified drug overdose deaths by looking at the text on death certificates for the years 2011 to 2016.
Researchers found that the rate of drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl (or one of its analogs) doubled each year from 2013 to 2016.
By 2016, fentanyl was connected to 18,335 such deaths: it was linked to 29 percent of all drug overdose deaths that year.
These recent trends are part of a larger epidemic of fatal drug overdoses, which more than tripled between 1999 and 2017. »