(CNN)
,

The rise in opioid deaths is largely due to the increase in synthetic opioids like fentanyl, says law enforcement officials. 

(WTTW News)
,

The Narcotics Arrest Diversion Program, an initiative launched in 2018, offers those arrested for low-level drug offenses who meet certain criteria a chance to have their charges dropped if they agree to meet with a drug counselor.

Overdose deaths with evidence of counterfeit pill use became more than twice as common between the second half of 2019 and the end of 2021, according to a new CDC report. (Tomas Nevesely / iStockphoto / Getty Images)

Illicitly manufactured fentanyl was involved in nearly all overdose deaths with evidence of counterfeit pills use, including more than two out of five deaths that were exclusively caused by it, CDC researchers found.

(WTTW News)

There were 103 overdose deaths attributable to fentanyl in Cook County in 2015. That number shot up to a record 1,825 in 2022, according to statistics from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office. That accounts for more than 90% of all opioid-related deaths in the county.

(WTTW News)

The synthetic opioid fentanyl remains a danger in Chicago, especially in Black and Latino communities, where the odds of a fentanyl-involved overdose have significantly increased in recent years.

Drug overdose deaths in the U.S. rose to record levels during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a new report from the CDC details the deadly rise of fentanyl. (Agnes Bun / AFP / Getty Images)

Nearly 70,000 people in the U.S. died of drug overdoses that involved fentanyl in 2021, almost a four-fold increase over five years. By 2021, about two-thirds of all overdose deaths involved the potent synthetic opioid, according to the report.

Dr. Rahul Gupta, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, walks outside of the White House, Nov. 18, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo / Alex Brandon, File)

The Office of National Drug Control Policy announced the designation Wednesday, the first time the office has used it since the category for fast-growing drug dangers was created in 2019.

A naloxone kit from the Chicago Recovery Alliance is pictured in a file photo. The organization is among those working to deal with an influx in xylazine. (Kristen Thometz / Chicago Tonight)

The veterinary drug was connected to a rising death toll in Cook County and across the state. The new restrictions aim to prevent the drug from entering the U.S. market for illicit purposes.

FILE - Attendees practice administering Narcan during an overdose education and Narcan training class at the Onala Recovery Center on the South Shore of Pittsburgh on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021. (Alexandra Wimley / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP, File)

The potential move represents the latest government effort to increase use of a medication that has been a key tool in the battle against the U.S. overdose epidemic. The decades-old drug can counteract the effects of an opioid overdose in minutes.

Tawana Pope is featured in FIRSTHAND: Life After Prison. (WTTW)
,

Tawana Pope and Nicholas Crayton had their own unexpected journeys and challenges, but continue to push for a better life. Pope is the founder of the nonprofit Diamonds In The Making Outreach and previously had been in and out of jail, struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. Crayton was released from prison just last year from the Life Skills Re-Entry Center.

A naloxone kit from the Chicago Recovery Alliance is pictured in a file photo. The organization is among those working to deal with an influx in xylazine. (Kristen Thometz / Chicago Tonight)

Data from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office shows 146 opioid-related deaths last year where xylazine was listed as a primary cause, marking a 16.8% increase from 2021. Local harm reduction organizations have also seen an uptick in its use.

(WTTW News)

A total of 35% of legal-aged U.S. adults skipped alcohol for the entirety of January in 2022 — that’s an increase from 21% in 2019, according to food and drink research firm CGA.

(WTTW News)

Omar Corro, senior director of operations at Rincon Family Services, said a major issue is family members not understanding what an individual in recovery might be going through, especially during the holidays.

(INeverCry / Wikimedia Commons)

Rates of deaths from drug overdoses among older adults have more than tripled in the past two decades, according to one report published Wednesday by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. In 2020, more than 5,000 adults 65 and older in the United States died of a drug overdose.

(Shutterbug75 / Pixabay)

Last month, Ben’s Friends, a national support group for people in the hospitality industry struggling with addiction, began hosting weekly meetings in Chicago.

Brian Hackel, right, an overdose prevention specialist, helps Steven Baez, a client suffering addiction, find a vein to inject intravenous drugs at an overdose prevention center, at OnPoint NYC in New York, N.Y., Friday, Feb. 18, 2022. (AP Photo / Seth Wenig)

Supporters say the sites — also known as safe injection sites or supervised consumption spaces — are humane, realistic responses to the deadliest drug crisis in U.S. history. Critics see them as illegal and defeatist answers to the harm that drugs wreak on users and communities.