Last updated: April 5, 2021
The synthetic opioid, fentanyl, is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Drug users—addicts included—normally shy away from fentanyl because it’s so lethal. Still, it’s linked to more cocaine overdoses than ever before.
What’s going on?
Drug dealers use fentanyl to “cut” cocaine, methamphetamine, and other drugs to enhance the user experience. It’s cheap and because of the drug’s added effect, it’s good for repeat business! Naturally, because the product is “killer,” they can charge customers more for it.
Sadly, the word “killer” is very appropriate when fentanyl is attached to it.
Overdose deaths are soaring and fentanyl is showing up as a contributing factor at an alarming rate. When the customer doesn’t know that their purchase contains fentanyl, they risk using too much of the drug—either initially or taking another dose too soon—just 2 mg of it can kill you.
Fentanyl is manufactured in China and Mexico and smuggled into the United States. It’s cheap so dealers are scooping it up in powder form as their cutting agent of choice.
Word on the street
Drug addicts realize the added risk they’re taking since dealers have begun using fentanyl as a cutting agent. Odds are increasing that they’ve witnessed someone overdosing on the drug.
They use the buddy system when they get high. They also take advantage of the growing number of city officials who are handing out Narcan. The nasal spray temporarily reverses the effect of an opioid overdose giving the person time to receive medical treatment.
It’s making a difference but is by no means a solution to the problem.
Drug use is rampant
It was encouraging to see a slight decrease in the number of overdose deaths just before the pandemic settled upon us. Any hope that the number would continue to trend downward was shattered, however, beginning in March of this year.
“The disruption to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit those with substance use disorder hard,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “As we continue the fight to end this pandemic, it’s important to not lose sight of different groups being affected in other ways. We need to take care of people suffering from unintended consequences.”
The CDC has made four recommendations for medical and public health professionals, first responders, and other community organizations in an effort to help slow this crisis down.
They are as follows:
- Expand the distribution and use of naloxone and overdose prevention education.
- Expand awareness about and access to and availability of treatment for substance use disorders.
- Intervene early with individuals at the highest risk for overdose.
- Improve detection of overdose outbreaks to facilitate a more effective response.
Ongoing efforts to reach out to those suffering from drug addiction is one way to fight the problem. Continued education regarding the dangers of drug abuse is another—educating our children and young adults may keep them from ever trying drugs in the first place.
That’s a giant leap in the right direction.