The Opioid Epidemic Is Ravaging The Country And Fentanyl Is At Center Stage
Opioid addiction is scourging the United States and Fentanyl is a major player in the number of opioid-related deaths happening in the country. By now, most Americans have heard that the country is experiencing an opioid addiction epidemic. Here are some statistics that put the Fentanyl problem into perspective:
- In 2015, there were 6.5 million fentanyl prescriptions dispensed in the U.S.
- In 2016, more people died from a drug overdose than any other year. Fentanyl is largely to blame for this statistic.
- The rate of fatal Fentanyl overdoses increased 88 percent every year between 2013 and 2016.
- According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), over 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids every single day. Many of these are Fentanyl cases.
- The CDC also reports that an average of 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. Fentanyl is responsible for many of these deaths.
- In the more than 60,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016, about sixty-six percent involved an opioid drug, including Fentanyl.
- From 2000 to 2016, more than 600,000 people died from drug overdoses. Most of these involved opioids, including Fentanyl.
- In 2016, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids like Fentanyl and heroin) was five times higher than in 1999.
- The U.S. economic cost of the opioid crisis in 2016 was an astonishing $504 billion.
- In October 2017, President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency.
While many opioid-related deaths involve heroin and prescription opioids like Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, and Oxycontin, addiction experts seem to be most concerned about Fentanyl. The drug has exploded onto the U.S. drug scene and is causing an increasing number of opioid-related overdose deaths. This is largely due to illegally manufactured Fentanyl.
Fentanyl Is Responsible For Many Opioid-Related Deaths
According to CBS News, “Fentanyl is driving the rapid rise in overdose deaths.” This information is based on a report released by the CDC in October 2017.
To determine the relationship between Fentanyl and fatal opioid overdoses, ten states were analyzed by the CDC –Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Together, these states reported 5,152 opioid overdose deaths from July to December 2016. Fentanyl was detected in 56.3 percent of these cases.
CBS also reports that “Fentanyl was most prevalent in the four Northeastern states and Missouri, where it was detected in anywhere from about 60 percent to 90 percent of the opioid-related deaths in the study.”
These statistics are supposed to represent a nationwide snapshot of how many opioid fatalities are caused by Fentanyl.
Illegally Manufactured Fentanyl Is Largely To Blame For Fentanyl-Related Deaths
To be clear, Fentanyl-related deaths are mostly happening to people who abuse the drug and acquire it illegally. Many people fraudulently obtain Fentanyl by stealing doctor’s prescription pads and writing fake prescriptions, stealing it from a pharmacy or bribing a pharmacist to get the drug, or buying it on the street. However; most Fentanyl-related deaths are happening because of illegally manufactured Fentanyl.
Because Fentanyl is a highly guarded substance and is very difficult to get from a doctor, street Fentanyl is being manufactured in illegal labs around the world (mostly China and Mexico) and distributed for sale by drug dealers in the United States on the black market.
Quite often, Fentanyl is being mixed with heroin because it is cheaper to produce and packs a powerful punch. Most heroin users are unaware that they are using Fentanyl, which is twenty-five to forty times more potent than heroin. They end up using too much and they die prematurely from a drug overdose.
What The DEA Has To Say About Fentanyl
With Fentanyl abuse in the rise, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) thought it was prudent to issue a nationwide alert on Fentanyl as threat to health and public safety in 2015.
“Drug incidents and overdoses related to fentanyl are occurring at an alarming rate throughout the United States and represent a significant threat to public health and safety,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart.
She continued, “Often laced in heroin, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues produced in illicit clandestine labs are up to 100 times more powerful than morphine and 30-50 times more powerful than heroin. Fentanyl is extremely dangerous to law enforcement and anyone else who may come into contact with it.
“DEA will continue to address this threat by directly attacking the drug trafficking networks producing and importing these deadly drugs. We have lost too many Americans to drug overdoses and we strongly encourage parents, caregivers, teachers, local law enforcement and mentors to firmly and passionately educate others about the dangers of drug abuse, and to seek immediate help and treatment for those addicted to drugs.”
Did You Know International Pop Icon Prince Died Of a Fentanyl Overdose?
Sadly, music icon Prince is among the tens of thousands of lives claimed by the powerful opioid Fentanyl. Prince died in April 2016 at the young age of 57.
According to reports, pills were found in Prince’s home that were labeled with the Hydrocodone stamp, but they contained Fentanyl. There was no evidence that Prince had a valid prescription for the painkiller and it is unclear how he obtained the drug.
Law enforcement officers aren’t sure whether Price knew the pills actually contained Fentanyl or if he thought he was taking Hydrocodone. Although there was initially some speculation that the pills were mislabeled by a lab, that conclusion was largely ruled out.
In addition to Fentanyl; Lidocaine, Xanax, and Percocet were also found in Prince’s system when the medical examiner performed a toxicology report.
What Is Fentanyl Anyway?
Fentanyl is a fast-acting and powerful opioid narcotic that is used to treat severe pain. It is a potent synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to Morphine but is 50 to 100 times stronger. It works to relieve acute and chronic pain by attaching to opioid receptor sites in the brain, which control how the body processes pain.
When used as prescribed, Fentanyl is typically only given to people who are in the advanced stages of cancer or some other terminal illness. It is also used as an anesthetic for surgical procedures.
Fentanyl should only be used in extreme cases when prescribed by a doctor. However; many people abuse this drug illegally and purchase Fentanyl on the black market. It is known on the street as Tango and Cash, China White, Jackpot, Friend, Apache, China Girl, Dance Fever, Goodfella, and TNT.
Why Do People Want To Take Fentanyl For Recreational Purposes?
Fentanyl produces a relaxing, calming effect for those who take it recreationally. Many people say the drug has an effect similar to heroin, although it is much more potent. People take it because they like the euphoria it produces.
Those who take Fentanyl say it takes away emotional pain and causes them not to have a care in the world. It puts them in a dreamy state where they have a greater love for themselves, others, and the world around them. Because the drug is so potent, someone can enjoy a Fentanyl high for up to twelve hours.
How Is Fentanyl Administered When Used For Medical Reasons?
Legal Fentanyl is administered several different ways. There are tablets, lozenges, oral sprays, nasal sprays, transdermal patches, and the drug can be administered through an IV. Fentanyl is only given to patients who have taken opioids before. Because it is so powerful, people need to have built up a tolerance to opioids before they take this medication.
Fentanyl tablets are pills that are dissolved under the tongue. This is usually the first pain-relieving Fentanyl treatment given to someone who is experiencing extreme pain. They come in doses measured in micrograms – 200 mcg, 300 mcg, 400 mcg, 600 mcg and 800 mcg.
Fentanyl lozenges (known by the brand name “Actiq”) are commonly referred to as “Fentanyl lollipops.” These lozenges come on a stick and are combined with sugar to create a sweet, berry-flavored taste. They slowly dissolve in the mouth and come in six different doses – 200 mcg (gray-colored), 400 mcg (blue), 600 mcg (orange), 800 mcg (purple), 1200 mcg (green), and 1600 mcg (burgundy).
Fentanyl Oral Spray
Fentanyl Oral Spray (known by its brand name “Subsys”) is sprayed under the tongue. It is prescribed to cancer patients who experience breakthrough pain and are already on an opioid medication regime. It delivers doses of 100 mcg, 200 mcg, 400 mcg, 600 mcg, 800 mcg, 1200 mcg, and 1800 mcg of Fentanyl.
Fentanyl Nasal Spray
Fentanyl nasal spray (known by its brand name “Lazanda”) is a clear, odorless spray that is inhaled through the nostril. It comes in three doses – 100 mcg, 300 mcg, or 400 mcg. Like the oral spray, Fentanyl nasal spray is given to cancer patients who experience breakthrough pain and are already taking opioids round-the-clock.
Fentanyl transdermal patches (known by its brand name “Duragesic”) are applied to the skin and changed out every three days to provide ongoing pain relief. They work very much like nicotine patches. They slowly release medication through the skin over a period of time and they are long-lasting. Fentanyl patches come in doses that release a certain amount of medication per hour – 25 mcg per hour, 50 mcg per hour, 75 mcg per hour, and 100 mcg per hour.
Fentanyl is typically administered intravenously when someone is going to have a surgical procedure, although it can be used to treat pain. A patient may receive a slow drip of the medication or have it injected all at once. There are various doses of the medication given based on a doctor’s discretion.
How Are People Using Fentanyl When They Abuse The Drug Illegally?
When Fentanyl is sold on the streets, it is either sold in a pill form, powdered form, or liquid form. People will pop the pills, snort the powder, or they will inject a diluted form of the powder or liquid.
The reason why illegal Fentanyl is so dangerous is that it is not regulated and administered properly. People who take Fentanyl don’t know how much to take. Whether they take Fentanyl knowingly or they buy heroin that has been laced with the drug, they end up taking too much. This can bring about respiratory depression and death.
Why Is Fentanyl So Dangerous?
Because Fentanyl is so powerful, it doesn’t take much of the drug to cause respiratory depression, which is what causes most opioid-related deaths. Where it might take higher doses of drugs like Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, or Percocet to induce respiratory depression, it only takes a small amount of Fentanyl to bring about this deadly consequence.
According to Healthline, “respiratory depression is a breathing disorder characterized by slow and ineffective breathing.” When someone has opioid-induced respiratory depression, their breathing slows to the point that it stops altogether and the heart stops beating.
One of the problems with Fentanyl abuse is that many people mix the drug with alcohol or other drugs. If you mix alcohol or other drugs with Fentanyl, it increases the likelihood of respiratory depression. When there is too much Fentanyl and other toxins in the system, respiratory depression and premature death are soon to follow.
How Addictive Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a highly addictive and dangerous substance. Medical professionals have a healthy fear of Fentanyl. It is so addictive and toxic that doctors will only prescribe the drug as a last resort to those who have built an incredible tolerance to other opioids. Tolerance is what happens when the body has become accustomed to taking a certain drug and that drug doesn’t work anymore.
Someone can use Fentanyl just one time and fall in love with the drug, which will cause them to use it again and again. Those who abuse Fentanyl continue to use the drug regardless of the negative consequences or the risk of death.
What Happens When Someone Stops Taking Fentanyl?
When someone stops taking Fentanyl, they will go through the excruciating experience of withdrawal. Withdrawal takes place when someone has been using an addictive substance and they suddenly stop using it. Because Fentanyl is so powerful, withdrawal from this drug is much more intense than it is when you detox from other opioids.
Here are the terrible withdrawal symptoms associated with Fentanyl:
- Stomach pain
- Uncontrollable crying
- Extreme depression
- Loss of appetite
- Cravings for more Fentanyl
- Seizures, coma, and death in some cases
Opioid withdrawal can be deadly. Those who are addicted to Fentanyl should not attempt to stop taking the drug on their own. Withdrawal should happen in the safety and comfort of a detox center or in-patient rehabilitation facility where progress can be monitored and evaluated. This is known as a professional medical detox. With a professional medical detox, the addicted person is given medication to lessen withdrawal symptoms and the drug is slowly removed from the body.
Opioid Replacement Therapy is another option. With ORT, someone is given an opioid replacement drug and slowly weaned off to lessen withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
What Are The Signs Of A Fentanyl Overdose?
An overdose from Fentanyl is considered a medical emergency. If you have been taking Fentanyl and you experience any of these symptoms, or if you are with someone who has been taking the drug and you witness any of these symptoms, you should call 9-1-1 immediately:
- Dangerously slow or stopped breathing
- Loss of consciousness
- Slowed heartbeat
- Extremely tiny pupils
- Extreme sleepiness
- Very low blood pressure
- Bluish color of the lips, skin, or fingernails
How Can Fentanyl Overdose Be Prevented Or Treated?
The most obvious way to prevent a Fentanyl overdose is not to use Fentanyl or street heroin. This goes without saying, of course. People who use Fentanyl or Fentanyl-laced heroin are at great risk for experiencing an accidental overdose brought on by respiratory depression.
However; there is a medication called Naloxone that can be given to someone who is experiencing an overdose to reverse the effects of Fentanyl. Paramedics and emergency rooms frequently use this drug to block the effects of opioids.
In many states, Naloxone is given to opioid addicts and their families in case of an accidental overdose. This is a pocket-sided injectable device that can be administered to immediately reverse the effects of an overdose.
How Can I Get Help For Fentanyl Addiction?
If you have an addiction to Fentanyl, you are in immediate danger. Fentanyl can bring about a sudden, unexpected fatal overdose. If you know someone who is addicted to Fentanyl, you should be gravely concerned.
The best way to overcome an addiction to Fentanyl is at an in-patient treatment center. During in-patient, someone with an addiction can safely detox and get the tools they need to live a life in recovery. At Northpoint Recovery, we specialize in Fentanyl addiction treatment. Talk to one of our experts and find out how we can help you or your loved one.