MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: In the U.S., fatal heroin overdoses have increased in the past decade by 300 percent, with fentanyl – a substance that is 20 to 50 times more potent than heroin – and its analogs increasingly contributing to overdoses. The drug often is implicated in clusters of overdose deaths when it is mixed with heroin and users do not realize what they are taking is more powerful than usual.
We analyzed the test results of 16,594 stamp bags seized as evidence by law enforcement authorities in Allegheny County that were submitted to the county’s Office of the Medical Examiner for laboratory testing from 2010 through 2016. Stamp bags are small wax packets that contain mixtures of illicit drugs, most commonly heroin, packaged for sale and sometimes stamped with a graphical logo by drug dealers to market their contents.
Before 2014, none of the tested bags contained fentanyl. By 2016 it was found in 15.5 percent of the tested stamp bags, with 4.1 percent containing fentanyl as the only controlled substance present.