Coloradans worry as fentanyl deaths have surged over the past year.

As hospitals and medical staff continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, another medical crisis has been affecting Coloradans for the past year: fentanyl overdose deaths.

Law enforcement across Colorado has been vigilant for a number of years of the arrival of fentanyl to the state. After the number of overdose cases seen in the past year, it is clear it has arrived.

In 2020, the number of recorded overdose deaths was 1,457. The number has increased with each passing year, with 1,062 deaths in 2019 and 974 in 2018.

Out of the 1,457 deaths in 2020, 543 of those were from fentanyl-related overdoses. This means that fentanyl-related deaths accounted for more than one-third of total overdose deaths.

In an interview with Fox Denver 31, Dr. Caruso said what is being found in autopsies is not prescribed fentanyl. “We’re seeing street fentanyl, which is really easy to manufacture in a chemistry lab."

Fentanyl is intended as a prescription opioid to treat pain. However, in recent years, law enforcement has found manufactured versions smuggled in from other countries. Because fentanyl is considered 10 times stronger than heroin, it has become a dangerous problem for illicit drug users who don't know what they are getting.

Such was the case for rapper Mac Miller, who died of an overdose on September 7, 2018. The autopsy conclusively found traces of alcohol, cocaine, and fentanyl in Miller's system. It was considered an accidental overdose as Miller was not aware the drugs had been laced with fentanyl.

Health officials are worried that the pandemic has been a major part of the increase in overdoses. Due to statewide orders and the nature of the virus, people have been more isolated, leading to higher rates of anxiety and depression.

The concern of synthetic fentanyl being found in Colorado has been escalating over the past months. In 2020, a 16-year-old girl died in Aurora after ingesting fentanyl at a party when she was told it was oxycodone. In February, Boulder County Public Health announced it found drugs, including Xanax and Oxycodone, laced with fentanyl.

If you or a loved one struggles with drug addiction, please seek help: SAMHSA's National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP (4357).