Overdose deaths attributed to the synthetic opioid fentanyl skyrocketed in Los Angeles County over a five-year period ending in 2021, with such fatalities increasing by 1,280%, according to a report released today by the county Department of Public Health.

The report found that there were 109 deaths attributed to fentanyl overdoses in the county in 2016, but that number ballooned to 1,504 in 2021. Between 2016 and 2020, visits to hospital emergency rooms due to fentanyl overdoses increased by 308%, going from 133 to 542, according to the report.

While white residents accounted for the most overdose deaths overall last year, Black residents had the highest rate of deaths based on the population, at 30.6 per 100,000 residents. The rate of white residents dying from fentanyl overdoses was 22.5 per 100,000 residents, while Latino residents had a rate of 11.1 per 100,000 residents.

Fentanyl overdose deaths also occurred at a much higher rate in less-affluent areas—38.4 per 100,000 residents—than in more affluent areas, at 12.3 per 100,000 residents.

“Fentanyl overdoses are a significant and growing public health problem across the United States and in LAC, across sociodemographic groups and geographic areas,” according to the report.

The data showed there was a sharp increase in deaths among all age groups, but they occurred a the highest rate among adults aged 26-39 followed by young adults aged 18-25.

Courtesy Los Angeles County.

“The increases among youth and the widening inequities between under-resourced and more affluent groups underscore the need to target prevention efforts to those at highest risk to decrease fentanyl overdoses and advance health equity in LAC,” the report said.

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