Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

VA Health Systems Research

Go to the VA ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

HSR&D Citation Abstract

Search | Search by Center | Search by Source | Keywords in Title

Steep increases in fentanyl-related mortality west of the Mississippi River: Recent evidence from county and state surveillance.

Shover CL, Falasinnu TO, Dwyer CL, Santos NB, Cunningham NJ, Freedman RB, Vest NA, Humphreys K. Steep increases in fentanyl-related mortality west of the Mississippi River: Recent evidence from county and state surveillance. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2020 Nov 1; 216:108314.

Dimensions for VA is a web-based tool available to VA staff that enables detailed searches of published research and research projects.

If you have VA-Intranet access, click here for more information

VA staff not currently on the VA network can access Dimensions by registering for an account using their VA email address.
   Search Dimensions for VA for this citation
* Don't have VA-internal network access or a VA email address? Try searching the free-to-the-public version of Dimensions


BACKGROUND: Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids (e.g., fentanyl) increased 10-fold in the United States from 2013 to 2018, despite such opioids being rare in illicit drug markets west of the Mississippi River. Public health professionals have feared a "fentanyl breakthrough" in western U.S. drug markets could further accelerate overdose mortality. We evaluated the number and nature of western U.S. fentanyl deaths using the most recent data available. METHODS: We systematically searched jurisdictions west of the Mississippi River for publicly available data on fentanyl-related deaths since 2018, the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics. Using mortality data from 2019 and 2020, we identified changes in fentanyl-related mortality rate and proportion of fatal heroin-, stimulant, and prescription pill overdoses involving fentanyl. RESULTS: Seven jurisdictions had publicly available fentanyl death data through December 2019 or later: Arizona; California; Denver County, CO; Harris County, TX; King County, WA; Los Angeles County, CA; and Dallas-Fort Worth, TX (Denton, Johnson, Parker, and Tarrant counties). All reported increased fentanyl deaths over the study period. Their collective contribution to national synthetic narcotics mortality increased 371 % from 2017 to 2019. Available 2020 data shows a 63 % growth in fentanyl-mortality over 2019. Fentanyl-involvement in heroin, stimulant, and prescription pill deaths has substantially grown. DISCUSSION: Fentanyl has spread westward, increasing deaths in the short-term and threatening to dramatically worsen the nation's already severe opioid epidemic in the long-term. Increasing the standard dose of naloxone, expanding Medicaid, improving coverage of addiction treatment, and public health educational campaigns should be prioritized.

Questions about the HSR website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.