A new Senate report led by Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) revealed a shocking surge in fatal drug overdoses, including fentanyl, among the elderly in two decades.
The report, titled “The Silent Epidemic: Fentanyl and Older Americans,” claims that more than 79,000 Americans aged 55 and above have died from opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2019. The rate of overdose deaths also increased from three per 100,000 in 2002 to 12 per 100,000 in 2021.
“Among Americans 65 and older, overdose deaths quadrupled across the last two decades, and there’s increasing evidence that synthetic drugs like fentanyl are adding to these fatalities,” according to the report, obtained by Fox News.
The United States has been experiencing a fentanyl crisis for years, with the drug being 50 times more potent than heroin. Illicit fentanyl often creeps into the U.S. across the southern border and is made in Mexico with the help of Chinese precursors. The epidemic causes tens of thousands of deaths a year.
One thing that makes fentanyl more deadly is that many people, of all ages, are not aware that a different drug they are taking has been laced with fentanyl.
“Older Americans susceptible to overdoses on synthetics are often long-term, stable users whose drugs become infected by synthetics or people who turn to black-market prescription drugs due to cost or to supplement their demand for medication after being cut off from legal channels,” according to the report.
The report also noted that black men aged 55 and older have an opioid overdose rate of four times larger than others of the same age. In Washington, D.C., between 2017 and 2022, 72% of fatal opioid overdoses were among older Americans.
The report recommends encouraging greater awareness among seniors, such as informing them that synthetics can be extremely lethal and are increasingly found in drugs such as oxycodone, Xanax, and Adderall. It also encourages more research and data to understand the scale of the impact on older Americans.
“We often talk about fentanyl becoming the number one killer of young people, but it’s killing at every age,” Braun, ranking member on the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging, said in a statement to Fox News. “The silent epidemic of fentanyl flowing from our southern border is robbing our seniors of their golden years.”
The report was released before a Senate hearing on the matter, which took place Thursday morning.