Overdose heroin deaths in West Virginia due to the use of potent opioids last year meant that tranquilizing elephants more than doubled.
Data released by the West Virginia Health Statistics Center shows the opioid battered state continues to grapple with the influx of powerful synthetic opioids like carfentanil, which is roughly 10,000 times more potent than morphine.
Early numbers reveal deaths from carfentanil jumped from 34 in 2016 to 78 in 2017, reports The Register-Herald.
Officials from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) pointed out that the final results of the 2017 opioid deaths have not yet been announced.
The state police department said that carfentanil can be absorbed through the skin and inhaled, forcing police officers to take extra precautions during drug encounters.
According to the “Herald Herald” report, “Once we understand the exposure, we have changed our approach,” said Becky police chief Lonnie Christian.
“We no longer test any substance that we think contains carfentanil or fentanyl. As much as a grain of salt can cause an excess. This is dangerous.
Unless you wear PPE, personal protective equipment, cover you from head to toe, otherwise Can’t avoid contact. ”
West Virginia continues to suffer from opioid abuse and currently has the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the country.
Drug overdoses, fueled by synthetic opioids, are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Opioid overdoses made up a staggering 66 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2016, surpassing the annual number of lives lost to breast cancer.
The epidemic is contributing to declining life expectancy in the U.S., officials say. Life expectancy dropped for the second consecutive year in 2016 for the first time since an outbreak of influenza in 1962 and 1963.