Last updated: May 29, 2023
There are those who have proclaimed since at least 2018 that legalizing marijuana nationwide will affect the opioid crisis in a positive way. More specifically, some believe allowing recreational marijuana use would dramatically cut down the number of deaths attributed to fentanyl.
As a matter of fact, just last summer, Geraldo Rivera staunchly defended his position on the topic. He called for completely legalizing recreational marijuana across the country in hopes of offering drug users a safer alternative to fentanyl. He believes taking this course of action will curb the growing number of fentanyl overdoses here in the United States.
Even though the open border policy is making it easier for illegal drugs to be smuggled into our country. And, they’re arriving in record amounts. In light of the ever-growing number of overdose deaths attributed to the drug, we can’t help but wonder if his views have changed by now.
It’s important to realize that fentanyl is a highly addictive synthetic opioid that is eighty to one hundred times stronger than morphine. Developed as a pain management treatment for late-stage cancer patients, fentanyl is commonly applied using a patch that adheres to the skin allowing the medication to enter the patient’s system slowly.
It’s also administered in a spray form, taken orally, or dispensed in the form of a lollipop.
It was initially sought after by drug addicts when word of its potency hit the streets in the 1970s. Street names include Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Goodfella, Jackpot, Murder 8, and TNT. It’s so potent that one gram of pure fentanyl can be cut into approximately 7,000 doses for sale on the street! Additionally, it requires relatively little technical knowledge to manufacture synthetic opioids.
Things started getting really out of control in the 2000s though. The opioid crisis was engulfing our nation and fentanyl was playing a growing part. There were 1,013 deaths related to fentanyl in the United States between 2005 and 2007 according to the CDC. That number has risen dramatically since then.
The data analysis from the opioid awareness organization Families Against Fentanyl shows that nearly 79,000 people between the ages of 18 and 45 died of overdoses in which fentanyl played a part during the last two years— 37,208 in 2020 and 41,587 in 2021.
It’s beyond out of control.
Even addicts shy away from the drug because the risk of dying from an overdose has become far too common. You would think that would affect the sale of this souped-up painkiller and it did. But, instead of demand going down, it has gone up—
It’s all over the black market
Dealers are unscrupulous characters who are looking at their bottom dollar. They purchase fentanyl in bulk from the drug cartels who smuggle it into the country. It’s incredibly cheap for them to do so. Then, they use it to “cut” their merchandise.
Fentanyl is mixed into heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine to increase the product that drug dealers have for sale. It also intensifies the user’s experience which means they’ll be back.
Unless they’re dead, of course. It happens more often than they’d like, but you’ll have that when failing to tell your customers the reason the drug is so “killer” is because you’ve added fentanyl to the mix.
Drug addicts wised up pretty quickly though. They know that it’s extremely likely that someone in the line mixed fentanyl in with their drug of choice. So, they have taken to using the buddy system to get high. Someone “watches over” the user to make sure they don’t exhibit signs of overdose. If that happens, their buddy is able to call for medical attention—and will more than likely have Narcan on hand to administer immediately.
This stuff works
Narcan is a nasal spray “used for the treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdose emergency with signs of breathing problems and severe sleepiness of not being able to respond.” Initially, the drug was reserved for medical personnel. First responders have it on hand and it has saved numerous lives.
Some city governments are taking things a step farther now and are making Narcan freely available to drug addicts. Moreover, some cities have programs available for drug addicts to bring in their personal stash for testing. They don’t have to worry about prosecution and if the drugs test positive for fentanyl they know what they’re dealing with ahead of time.
How it works
When an opioid overdose happens and someone stops breathing, brain damage can occur after 4 minutes. Death can occur four to six minutes after that.
You don’t need any medical training to administer Narcan. It works by releasing Naloxone molecules into the bloodstream and they travel to the brain. There, they displace the opioid molecules and attach themselves to the opioid receptors. This will reverse the life-threatening effects of the overdose.
The effect doesn’t last long though so it’s imperative to seek emergency medical attention in addition to administering Narcan.
Will legalizing marijuana curb fentanyl overdose deaths?
Not as long as drug dealers are selling the stuff to unknowing customers. Still, even after we get that under control, only time will tell if choosing the “lesser of two evils” is really the road we want to go down.
In the meantime, drug addicts are taking matters into their own hands and using the buddy system. They’re also getting their drugs tested before ingesting them. Narcan—and other medications containing Naloxone—have taken their place in the battle with favorable results, as well.
Continuing to educate those who suffer from drug addiction and those who have never used drugs at all about the danger that using fentanyl presents will make some inroads. Hopefully, lots of them. When we provide people with education it allows them to make informed decisions.
Fentanyl is a killer. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out it’s not something you want to mess around with. Even if you survive the experience, it’s highly addictive. Moreover, you have to continually increase the dose to achieve the desired effect which increases your risk of overdosing.
Trust us when we say that the buzz isn’t worth gambling with your life.