DENVER — Fentanyl-related overdose deaths are up a staggering 282% in Denver from January of this year to May, compared to the same time period in 2019, according to new data released Wednesday from the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE).
The data shows 48 people have died from fentanyl overdose as of Friday, July 17 of this year. That’s compared to a total of 58 deaths related to the drug for the entire year of 2019, a 341% increase from the previous year (2018).
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid can be up to 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Overdoses on fentanyl typically occur faster than other drugs. It is so strong that just touching or breathing in can be harmful. The drug can come in many forms, including pills, capsules, rock, and pure powders. It cannot be seen, tasted or smelled when mixed with other drugs.
While historical trends show overdose deaths have decreased in Denver on average over the last decade. Deaths associated with Methamphetamine and Fentanyl are increasing.
The total number of drug-related deaths in Denver in 2019 was 213. In 2020 so far, there have been 145 drug-related deaths. Of the 145 deaths this year, 64% of the deceased had some type of opioid (including heroin) in their system. Methamphetamine was present in 45% of deaths so far this year, according to data provided by the DDPHE.
The overwhelming majority of probable overdose deaths — 83% — occurred in populations outside the homeless community, according to the Denver Office of the Medical Examiner.
The health agency didn’t provide an exact cause to the increase in fentanyl-related deaths. However, they stated they have partnered with several agencies and have been monitoring the Denver area for the presence of fentanyl to reduce the risk of overdose death in the community.