Fentanyl overdoses have become the leading cause of death for adults ages 18 to 45, according to recent U.S. government data. The potent narcotic killed more Americans in 2020 than car accidents, gun violence, suicide, and COVID-19, according to the opioid awareness organization Families Against Fentanyl, which analyzed the CDC statistics.

Families Against Fentanyl found that between 2020 and 2021, nearly 79,000 people between 18 and 45 years old died of fentanyl overdoses. The frightening numbers also show that reported deaths due to the drug doubled from 32,754 fatalities to 64,178 fatalities in between April 2019 and April 2021.

Fentanyl, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), is a synthetic opioid typically used to treat patients with chronic severe pain or severe pain following a surgery. “There is a significant risk that illegal drugs have been intentionally contaminated with fentanyl,” the organization states on its website. “Because of its potency and low cost, drug dealers have been mixing fentanyl with other drugs including heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine, increasing the likelihood of a fatal interaction.”

“This is a national emergency. America’s young adults — thousands of unsuspecting Americans — are being poisoned,” James Rauh, founder of Families Against Fentanyl, said in a statement. “It is widely known that illicit fentanyl is driving the massive spike in drug-related deaths. A new approach to this catastrophe is needed.”

Rauh believes that “declaring illicit fentanyl a Weapon of Mass Destruction would activate additional and necessary federal resources to root out the international manufacturers and traffickers of illicit fentanyl and save American lives.”

Preliminary CDC data points to all drug overdose deaths surpassing 100,000 in 2021. More than 42,600 fentanyl overdose deaths were reported in the first five months of 2021.

Fentanyl has been found in all the drug supply. That’s why anyone using drugs, not just opioids, should carry naloxone,” Dr. Roneet Lev, emergency physician and former chief medical officer of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), said in a statement. “The only safe place to obtain drugs is the pharmacy.”

A toxicology report confirmed the renowned actor Michael K. Williams died in September after overdosing on cocaine, fentanyl, and heroin. Comedian Fuquan Johnson also died from fentanyl-laced cocaine, and Mac Miller passed away in 2017 after overdosing on fentanyl-laced pills.

If you or someone close to you needs help for a substance use disorder, talk to your doctor or call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP or go to SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator.