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What is Fentanyl and How is it Affecting Overdose Rates?

Fentanyl is an opioid that acts on the brain the same way traditional opioids do, like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and heroin. To over-simplify the definition, fentanyl is basically a really, really, really strong opiate. It’s roughly 30-50 times stronger than heroin, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

A lethal dose of fentanyl about the size of the tip of a pen, just two millimeters, and most of the time people don’t know they’re ingesting it until it’s too late and an overdose occurs. This is because drug dealers often “cut” or “lace” their product with fentanyl for various reasons; it happens with drugs other than opiates as well.

“Although some users seek out fentanyl, it is often ingested unintentionally. It is commonly used to adulterate heroin as well as counterfeit prescription pain pills and sedatives that are purchased on the street. Increasing numbers of overdose deaths among cocaine users may also be related to fentanyl-adulterated cocaine. Because it is so highly potent, fentanyl is more easily smuggled into the country, and because it is so cheap to produce, drug traffickers have increasingly turned to fentanyl as a profitable product.” – Dr. Nora Volkow from the National Institute on Drug Abuse speaking on the rise in Fentanyl use in the United States

A Look At The Numbers

The most recent data we currently have comes from 2016, and researchers are positive that the numbers have risen over the last year and a half. According to that data collected and released by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), almost half of all opioid-related deaths in 2016 were associated with the drug fentanyl — over 19,000 lives lost.

What may be even more shocking is the fact that in 2010, there were just over 3000 fentanyl-related deaths. That is an increase of 16,000 lives lost in just six short years. Why are the numbers rising so fast? What is causing this influx of illicit fentanyl? Why would drug dealers purposely put this chemical into the drugs they sell? To put it bluntly: Money.

Due to the potency and the ease of obtaining it, it can easily turn a small stash of heroin into a massive stash of heroin. When you have a mind or mood-altering substance that is so potent in such small quantities, that means that you are also going to have a lot of “filler” to make it look like the supply you’re buying is correct. Therefore, in addition to the fentanyl, you could be receiving some other very disturbing chemicals in certain batches of heroin.

Drug addicts have been called many things over the years, and although smart is not usually one of them, we all know that we are.

Why are Overdose Rates From Fentanyl on the Rise All of the Sudden?

Fentanyl is legal in the US by prescription, typically for those individuals in chronic pain and with terminal illnesses. It’s important to note that the majority of fentanyl-related deaths are from illicit fentanyl bought from dealers or off the street, not from the drug being over-prescribed. In certain areas of the US, especially the Northeast and parts of Florida and California, there is about a 50 percent chance of heroin being bought off the street to have been laced with fentanyl.

It is so serious that it’s a drug that many doctors won’t even touch, and by touch — I mean that they simply won’t prescribe it and will refer patients with serious chronic pain issues to specialists instead.  

Many say that the current epidemic is caused, at least in part, by the synthetic manipulations of the drug that are coming in legally from overseas before the DEA even has a chance to identify the latest strain, schedule it, and deem it illegal. The majority of these shipments are coming in from China and Mexico. Because of the tiny changes in the chemical makeup of the drug in different batches, research and preventing the spread of this mass weapon is increasingly difficult.

To explain this phenomenon as simply as possible: Major-league drug dealers are getting this drug easily and cheap. It is extremely potent and being sold at a rapid pace due to several reasons, such as the ease of making the product ‘stretch’. This causes users to:

  • Overdose
  • Fatally overdose
  • Increase an addict’s tolerance at a rapid pace, leading to their downfall quicker than “usual”

That’s right, drug dealers are killing off their own clientele by selling them a product that has a high chance of seriously harming them. They take advantage of their desperation and know that heroin addicts are going to buy heroin every day, no matter what.

It’s becoming scarier and scarier on a daily basis. I’ve read too many “R.I.P” social media statuses this year and it’s only June. Please get help before it’s too late. Tomorrow may not come. Next week or next month may not come. These deaths are preventable. Save yours by taking the first step today, call Principles Recovery Center at 1-866-692-0909.

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