What Is Fentanyl And Why Is It So Deadly?
As the opioid crisis wages on and a record number of people are dying each and every day from drug overdoses, fentanyl is making news headlines. It is popping up in all sorts of illicit street drugs from heroin, LSD, cocaine, Xanax and even synthetic marijuana aka: spice or K2. Fentanyl is extremely deadly; just a few grains of salt sized dose can be lethal for an adult human being. While fentanyl is extremely potent, it also has a short duration high, so most addicts have to continually re-dose multiple times a day just to support their habit. This is a dangerous combination and the abuse of fentanyl is driving increase of overdose deaths in the United States today.
It is estimated that nearly 72,000 people in the United States died from a drug overdose in 2017. That’s close to 200 people each and every day. – Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
The opioid crisis arguably began in the late 1990’s, with pharmaceutical companies advertising new opioids that were supposedly non-habit forming. American doctors began prescribing these drugs en masse, including OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet. While big pharma companies were making record profits, they were also creating a new class of drug addicts. This affected all types of people: young, old, rich and the poor. No segment of society has been immune from the effects of the opioid epidemic.
As the government and the medical industry began limiting prescriptions and access to these drugs, a dangerous black-market began to emerge in every corner of America. People began turning to dangerous street drugs like heroin because the withdrawal symptoms from opiates are so painful, they literally cause the user to feel uncomfortably sick. For the drug dealers, heroin is difficult to produce and transport so many saw an economic advantage of pushing a new, more potent drug on our streets: fentanyl.
Since it is so potent (and street drugs are not regulated, nor rarely tested) a tiny error in the production process in a clandestine lab can cause more overdoses and more deaths. This is why you will see one city having multiple overdoses in a few hours or a few days as the result of a ‘bad batch’ showing up in that market. Making matters worse, many who are not even trying to do opioids end up getting fentanyl in other drugs like cocaine, LSD or spice. Drugs that are not at all like opioids but the dealers put it in there to increase perceived potency and increase their profits. The black market is a major problem and people are dying as a result of drug dealers, gangsters and crime syndicates trying to make money on America’s streets.
Our addiction problem is not going away overnight. There have been many theories on ways to approach this massive public health issue. The most likely on to succeed is increased access and resources for effective addiction treatment and rehab programs. Many simply lack the access or funds to attend a private facility. Also, many government-run facilities have a long waiting list where many die waiting to receive treatment for their substance abuse disorder. As the drugs become more and more potent, the crisis will only get worse and more Americans will die day after day.
Emergency preparedness is an important thing most people could do to lessen the chances of an overdose death occurring. Having a Nalaxone kit available can easily save someone’s life. This drug counters the opioid receptors in the brain and can reverse a drug overdose long enough for emergency services to arrive at the scene. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction there are many ways you can help.
Call us now to speak with and addiction specialist at More Than Rehab.
CDC Report: Record Number of Drug Overdose Deaths in 2017
New CDC Report Shows Record Number of Overdoses in 2017
Drug overdose deaths in the United States topped 72,000 in 2017 according to a new Center for Disease Control report, an increase of nearly 10 percent from 2016. These numbers translate into 200 deaths per day in the US for drug overdoses, or one every 8 minutes. The primary force behind the increase has been synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and oxycodone. While there is no clear boundary separating types of people who fall into addiction, the opioid epidemic seems to affect poor, rural, working class communities the most. Drug overdoses are now a leading killer of American citizens, more than car accidents, gun violence and HIV/AIDS in 2017. Here is the most recent CDC data from 2022.
This data also shows that states that increased funding for treatment and rehab programs saw a decline in overdoses.
States with high overdose rates like Vermont and Massachusetts saw decreases as they have stepped up funding for drug addiction treatment programs. However as states reduce access to pharmaceutical grade prescription opioids, a dangerous black market is emerging to fill the void of demand for these drugs. Fentanyl is a cheap, easily produced synthetic opioid that has been flooding the streets of American cities. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin. It is being mixed with a variety of street drugs from cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, and anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax. Illicit drug manufacturers are mixing fentanyl in their drugs to increase the potency and potential for addiction. This makes the dealers more money and many addicts simply do not know what they are getting when buying drugs on the streets these days. Nearly half of all drug overdose deaths in 2017 were from these types of synthetic opioids alone.
One strategy being employed that is helping to reduce deaths is community access to Naloxone.
Naloxone is an ‘opioid antagonist’ that helps block the opioid receptors in the brain and can help stop an imminent overdose. This is what singer Demi Lovato’s friends had on hand and administered to her when she was having an overdose. It most likely saved her life. More and more communities are allowing public access to Naloxone (known as Narcan) and they are seeing a reduction in overdose deaths as a result. One specific example is Dayton, Ohio. After seeing the highest rate of overdoses in the state, Dayton officials launched a multi-tiered plan to combat drug related deaths. One major component of this was a harm reduction practice that distributed Naloxone doses to the public. This offered training and increased public awareness of this life-saving technique. In 2017 this program helped administer 2,507 doses, which undoubtedly saved many lives.
Increased access to drug treatment and rehab facilities is one major factor that helps reduce drug overdose deaths.
Dayton, Ohio also increased access to treatment and recovery services by increasing the number of residential detox beds by 6, which raised the number of patients they could treat yearly from 415 to 730. They also bolstered access to outpatient services, and recovery houses which have all contributed to the declining numbers of overdose deaths. Care Source, Ohio’s largest Medicaid provider announced that they had cut the number of opioid prescriptions to its members by 40 percent in the last 18 months.
All of these are helping to combat the opioid epidemic, but no single strategy alone is enough to stop this national emergency. We need to address not only the effects that drug abuse has on our population, but the underlying causes as well. A strong coalition of government, industry and the community is necessary to curb accidental drug overdoses in our great nation.
Drug treatment and rehab programs are crucial in helping people quit before they overdose.
Since relapse is a normal part of the drug rehabilitation process, we need to add a greater emphasis of reducing the stigma associated with drug abuse. Many addicts are simply too embarrassed to even ask for help. Instead of treating addicts like criminals, we need to recognize they are our family members, friends, coworkers and neighbors who are battling their addictions and they should not be barred from receiving the help they desperately need.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, do not hesitate to call. We are open 24/7 and a licensed professional is available to take your call and get you the help you need.