street fentanyl
© Reuters / Shannon StapletonA man living on the streets displays what he says is the synthetic drug fentanyl, San Francisco, California, US, February 27, 2020.
Fentanyl overdoses have become the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18 to 45, according to a new report which shows deaths related to the drug overtaking Covid-19 and suicide.

Between 2020 and 2021, 78,795 adults in the age bracket died from the drug, with 2021 deaths rising by nearly 4,500 over the year before, according to a report released by the organization Families Against Fentanyl this week.

Fentanyl now kills more 18- to 45-year-olds than suicide, Covid-19, and car accidents, with the number of deaths experiencing a particularly sharp rise since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Fentanyl is tied to 64% of all US drug fatalities.

"Fentanyl fatalities have increased by 49.4% in just 12 months, surpassing 64k deaths as of April 2021," the organization claimed, calling for lawmakers to designate the drug as a weapon of mass destruction (WMD). "The U.S. has faced dangerous chemicals before. There is a solution: Designate Fentanyl a WMD."

"A WMD designation can empower the US to shift from a policy of mass incarceration of Americans with substance use disorder and low level drug dealers to an all of government approach to stop the flow of this poison into our country and stop the poisoning of our people," Families Against Fentanyl said.

The US imposed sanctions on four Chinese drug companies this week after accusing them of trafficking fentanyl into the country. Beijing denounced the "erroneous" decision and encouraged the US government to "look for causes of the abuse of fentanyl from within."

Comment: Probably good advice.

Some analysts have linked the rise in overdose deaths to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has kept vulnerable addicts away from aid, and distant families from seeing each other.

However, overdose deaths, particularly those caused by opioids, were rising before the coronavirus pandemic, and the over-prescription of opioid painkillers has also been blamed as a contributing factor to America's drug problem.