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.