Seventy people died of fentanyl overdoses in 2018, up from just four in 2013, according to a new report from the Wake County Register of Deeds Office. 

In that timeframe, 662 people died of drug overdoses, a number that peaked at 145 in 2017 and declined slightly, to 134, in 2018.

From 2013 to 2015, a plurality of drug-overdose deaths in the county was associated with cocaine and heroin. In 2017 and 2018, however, fentanyl was involved in 54 percent and 59 percent, respectively, of all accidental—meaning non-suicide—overdose deaths. (In more than 60 percent of overdoses, the death certificate lists more than one drug as the cause of death.)

This aligns with a national trend. Fentanyl is now the leading cause of overdose deaths in the U.S. Along with other synthetic opioids, it killed more than twenty thousand people in 2016, and more than twenty-eight thousand in 2017, according to the CDC

According to the Register of Deeds study, most Wake County overdose victims are white (81 percent) and male (71 percent), and overdose deaths were most prevalent among people in their late twenties. 

The highest number of accidental overdoses occurred in the 27603 zip code, in southeastern Wake County. 

Over the six-year timeframe, 15 percent of overdoses have been ruled suicides, according to the Register of Deeds. The people who used drugs to take their own lives were older and almost never used fentanyl, the report says. 

Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman at 

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