A frightening new statistic was revealed recently: Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 years old. This statement provokes many questions. One of them being, “Is Fentanyl one of the killers?”
Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein shared the data with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). “On an average day, 90 Americans will die from an opioid-related overdose.” He referred to the nearly 60,000 total drug overdose deaths annually as “horrifying.”
Opioids are a Big Problem
For 2017, it is estimated that well over half of the overdose deaths will again be from opioids, both natural and synthetic. Illegal drugs like heroin and opium, as well as prescribed drugs like Hydro- and Oxycodone, Morphine, and most commonly, Fentanyl, are the culprits in this epidemic.
Fentanyl, in particular, is becoming the largest danger to addicts, along with law enforcement and medical personnel alike. This is due to the increased use and abuse of the narcotic by itself, as well as its addition to other commonly abused drugs. Often, cocaine and heroin are combined with fentanyl (sometimes unbeknownst to the user or first responder) with an unpredictable and deadly result.
Fentanyl is a very potent synthetic opioid analgesic (pain medication), which was first developed in 1959. Similar to morphine, it is 50 to 100 times more potent, though some versions produced can be as much as 100,000 times stronger. Just 2 milligrams—equivalent to a few grains of salt, can be deadly.
It is most often used as a post-surgical treatment for pain, or to manage chronic or severe pain. In prescription form, it goes by names like Actiq®, Duragesic®, and Sublimaze®.. On the street, illegal forms go by names like Apache, China Girl, China White, TNT, Tango and Cash, and others.
Proper Usage of Fentanyl is Fine
In and of itself, fentanyl is not problematic. In fact, it is an extremely safe and effective pain reliever when used as directed. The creation of the fentanyl patch in the mid-1990’s was seen as a major breakthrough in palliative pain management. It is extremely versatile in both usage and administration, and as of 2102, fentanyl in all forms became the most commonly used synthetic opioid.
It is prescribed and administered in multiple formats:
- Intravenously, via injection or I.V./catheter
- Transdermal patches
- Dissolvable tablets or lozenges
- As a lollipop
- Sublingual (under the tongue) or nasal spray
Fentanyl is sometimes used as part of surgical anesthesia and as a spinal or epidural analgesic for many routine medical procedures and is often prescribed to manage pain for cancer patients.
Abuse and Concealment Make it Deadly
Like most “safe” prescription drugs, fentanyl becomes problematic when it is misused. Manufacturers have made it harder to extract or concentrate it from legal prescriptions, but the illegal manufacture of fentanyl is on the rise. Since such a small dose can be deadly, these illicit sources are the cause of most fatalities, as they have no quality control.
Taken alone or mixed with heroin or cocaine, illegally made fentanyl is an extreme danger to the user, as well as anyone else who may come into contact with it. Numerous cases of the general public and first responders accidentally inhaling or otherwise coming into contact with fentanyl are increasing, some with fatal results.
Overdoses are the killer, but how can they be prevented? Proper usage, storage, and monitoring of prescribed fentanyl products are important, especially around children. Avoiding recreational use of fentanyl, along with cocaine and heroin are critical.
If you or someone you know has an addiction problem, seek treatment, and refrain from touching any unknown powder, residue or container. It could be the last thing you touch. In case of suspected Fentanyl or other opioid overdose:
- Call 911 Immediately
- DO NOT touch any paraphernalia, container, or powder on the victim
- If trained and available, administer Naloxone or Narcan
One group working to stem the tide of opioid abuse is Operation Prevention—a joint effort between the DEA and Discovery Education. Information can be found here: https://www.operationprevention.com/
Overdoses don’t have to be the number one killer of people under 50. Proper information, education, and coordination with medical and law enforcement professionals can turn the tide. For more information on drugs, addiction, and solutions for addicts, turn to GetThrive.com.