HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — A new CDC report said overdose deaths rose sharply in 2020 and showed fentanyl overdoses increased by nearly 65% in southern states just last year.

Over 60% of all overdose deaths last year involved some kind of opioid. The CDC reports that the majority of those overdoses involved an illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF).

Fentanyl is a Schedule II narcotic, which means it does have legitimate medical purposes and can be prescribed by doctors. Fentanyl is used to treat severe pain. Jennifer Hatch, a drug expert with Texas DPS, said that while some people do use fentanyl for valid reasons, “the majority of what people are using is coming over from illegitimate medical uses.”

The CDC study released December 14 shows that nearly 70% of overdoses in southern states in 2020 were caused by fentanyl. During an Operation Lone Star briefing last week, Hatch explained why fentanyl was quickly killing so many people.

“[Fentanyl] is a very, very potent drug, and so this is why it is so dangerous,” she said. “Fentanyl is 30 times more potent than heroin, and 60 to 100 times more potent than morphine.”

The CDC study indicates that over two-thirds of fentanyl overdoses were caused by illegally manufactured fentanyl that is smuggled in from outside the country. Hatch said illegally and improperly made fentanyl is the reason there are so many overdoses.

“You’re not getting the same kind of CQs (quality controls) that you’re getting from a legitimate pharmaceutical lab,” Hatch said on the difference between legal and illegally manufactured fentanyl. “So, on average that’s 3 mg of fentanyl, which is one mg more than a lethal dose.”

Like other opioids, fentanyl is a depressant. The CDC report said that nearly half of all fentanyl overdoses involved the drug being mixed with a stimulant.

Hatch corroborated that and said that they often see fentanyl cut with other drugs in their crime labs.

“Fentanyl can be cut with other substances. It can be cut with heroin to increase the potency, it can be cut with cocaine and methamphetamine – that seems to be a more recent development,” she said.