Insights Into Mixing Fentanyl and Benzodiazepines From Canadian Drug Seizures

Published in: JAMA Psychiatry, Volume 79, Number 1 (January 2022), pages 81–83. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2021.3292

Posted on RAND.org on January 25, 2022

by Bryce Pardo

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In 2020, there were approximately 60,000 overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids in the US. Illegally produced fentanyl entered the heroin supply, but there are increasing reports of mixtures containing stimulants or nonopioids. Coingestion of opioids, especially highly potent fentanyls, with benzodiazepines increases risk of death.

Data lags, limited coordination across US agencies, and the elimination or reduction of the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring program and the Drug Abuse Warning Network impede an understanding of transitioning illicit drug markets. More fundamentally, there are no publicly available incident-level drug seizure data to offer such insights. Comparable US drug seizure data from the National Forensic Laboratory Information System report annual counts from the previous year without describing polydrug mixtures. Better and more current data from Canada can offer some understanding, given its similar experience with illegally manufactured synthetic opioids.

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