Fentanyl—a drug so potent that just 2 or 3 milligrams, an amount equivalent to 5 or 6 grains of salt, can prove fatal. A drug so lethal, the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued a warning for Emergency Responders and others who have a high risk of coming into contact with this powerful narcotic painkiller. Fentanyl is an ever-growing menace to society.
The facts and statistics are beyond sobering
Each year, thousands upon thousands of Americans die due to a drug overdose. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) publishes annual statistics and opiates have consistently been the major cause of death for well over a decade.
The scourge of opiate addiction is taking its toll on our great nation in many ways.
- Our citizens are dying and the number grows each year.
- The number of homeless grows as people lose all they have to feed their addictions.
- Businesses are suffering from the burden of drug-addicted employees.
- Our nation’s children, born to parents of addicts, are at high risk of psychological and/or medical disorders that may not manifest until years down the road.
- Not to mention the dollar figure pertaining to all of the above. Absenteeism and accidents in the workplace, the mental and physical well being of children born into and/or living with addiction, rehabilitation and costs incurred with failed rehabilitation…
That list will just keep growing.
It did not seem that things could get any worse. And, then it did.
Over the past few years, a staggering number of people have died due to overdosing on a specific synthetic opioid, fentanyl.
- In 2011, 1,662 people died from an overdose in which fentanyl was mentioned
- In 2016, 18,335 people died from an overdose in which fentanyl was mentioned
The five-year increase is nothing short of insane. That means that of all drug-related overdose deaths recorded in 2016, fentanyl was mentioned to play a part in 29% overall.
What are they thinking!
Once word of the extreme risk of overdose associated with fentanyl got out on the street, you’d think it would have put the brakes on this ride. Good grief! Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine! And, it’s 50 times stronger than heroin.
Why would anyone think that they had any business messing with that stuff? Yes, it’s understood that a higher potency sounds great to an addict. They need to feed the addiction. But, the extreme increase in potency bumped up against either of those drugs is flabbergasting.
Desperate times call for desperate measures
With the focus on the opioid crisis that is gripping our nation, doctors have cracked down and are no longer liberally writing prescriptions for painkillers. That leaves addicts on the hunt for another source to fuel their high. Fentanyl is affordable.
Affordable, at what cost
Fentanyl is, also, found to be the underlying cause of death for many users of methamphetamine, cocaine or heroin. Fentanyl can be purchased cheaply. It is used as a filler to “cut” into other drugs. That means more money for dealers in the long run.
Fentanyl-laced drugs cause a more intense high. However, if the user is unaware their super buzz is due to added fentanyl and uses again too soon, overdosing is often the result.
Call 911! Call 911!
Fentanyl exposure can result from its powder, liquid or tablet form. The increased use of this highly potent and dangerous drug poses a serious risk to emergency responders, medical personnel, and others who may come into contact with it during their normal work day.
It is thought that the greatest area of concern comes from the danger of inhalation, mucous membrane contact, ingestion, or needlestick injuries. Those working at jobs deemed high risk by NIOSH are:
- EMS providers
- Law enforcement
- Investigation and evidence handling
- Special operations and decontamination
Although there is no occupational exposure data to refer to yet, as new research is obtained, NIOSH recommendations will be updated.
For the time being, emergency service providers, medical personnel, and others working in an environment where fentanyl exposure is possible are reminded to operate in their job capacity observing all standard safe operating procedures, attend special training events, and follow all PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) guidelines.
An ounce of prevention...
Education is key. The intent is not to sound cliche when mentioning education. Education is proven to be a strong weapon in necessitating change. When we educate people about the dangers of fentanyl use, of any drug use, we are giving them the tools needed to make informed decisions.
This coupled with witnessing first hand the dangers of drug use and addiction through the life of a friend or family member can become strong evidence of a need for change. For surely, this crisis has touched everyone on a personal level to some degree. A decision made to take a firm stand against using drugs is one that every individual must make of their own accord.
First, ensuring a drug-free workplace protects your employees and all that come into contact with them or the product which you sell. Second, promoting a drug-free workplace is, in turn, a way of promoting a drug-free lifestyle.
Having policies and procedures in place to deal with an incident that occurs in the workplace enables you to get things back on track as quickly as possible. Reaching out to the employee by pointing them in the direction of rehabilitation could be included in your protocol.
Offering hope to someone by pointing them toward help that can free them of a life using drugs is a noble gesture. Rehabilitation can lead to putting personal policies and procedures in place that will enable them to thrive.
Ultimately, If helping someone find their way is the end result, that pound of cure just increased tenfold.