Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is a rising enemy in the opioid epidemic and America’s war on drugs. This particularly dangerous drug is reported by the Peninsula Press at Stanford to be 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. As a result of its high potency, doctors prescribe Fentanyl by the microgram — a thousandth of a milligram. Overdose deaths from this powerful drug have increased significantly since 2013.
Overdose deaths related to fentanyl in California are rising as quickly as overdose deaths from other opioids. As the nation pushes forward to find ways to curb the opioid epidemic, fentanyl has the experts concerned that a new surge in overdose deaths is on the way.
In its early marked arrival on the streets, fentanyl found its way to the East Coast after being shipped to the U.S from China. However, in recent years, the drug has moved across the East Coast to the West Coast. Fentanyl is often disguised within other drugs that people are misusing. Many overdoses happen because people have no idea that the synthetic drug is hidden within.
Dangers of Fentanyl
According to data from the National Vital Systems Statistics in an article in Clinical Psychiatry “Fentanyl was the most involved drug in overdose deaths for six of the countries ten public health regions in 2017, with a clear pattern of decreasing use from east to west.”
The highest death rate of 22.5 people per 100,000 occurred in the New England Region. The lowest death rate of 1.5 people per 100,000 encompassed two regions covering Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada.
These days many people may not even know what fentanyl is or how dangerous this drug can be. Even scarier is that it is used to spike other drugs obtained illegally. This is directly contributing to the increase in overdose deaths.
It seems California is now turning researchers’ East to West Coast pattern theory upside down. California is experiencing more deaths due to fentanyl-related overdoses. This is causing experts to suspect that the drug is switching a similar pattern, much as methamphetamine did before. In that instance, death rates declined from the West Coast to the East Coast.
Between 2014 to 2019, the fentanyl-related overdose death count rose to 1,679 people in California overall. In L.A. County alone, 15 people died in 2015 from fentanyl-related overdoses. However, in 2018 there were 202 deaths as a result of an overdose, according to the California Department of Public Health. This indicates an increase of 614 percent in 2018.
Be aware that fentanyl is extremely dangerous in even a small amount. It is also inexpensive and easy to manufacture. It is a stronger pill or drug compared with drugs that came before. But, people with substance use disorder in California say smaller amounts are enough to get the desired high and for only a fraction of the cost of heroin.
As if Fentanyl is not dangerous enough by itself, trying to steer clear of it can be almost impossible. Fentanyl is often mixed in with other drugs or created into counterfeit pills that appear to be prescription pills, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. It is also known to be mixed in with cocaine, heroin, MDMA, and many other illicit drugs. This is creating an alarming risk of an overdose for anyone who may misuse, or even occasionally use, such drugs. Fentanyl is not detected on regular drug-testing strips yet, indicating one more reason why people who misuse drugs seem to be taking the risk to use fentanyl.
Preventing Fentanyl Overdose Deaths
The California Department of Public Health began in 2014 to work with communities to try to prevent fentanyl from hitting the streets. The California Department of Public Health has issued these preventative strategies:
- Increase access to Naloxone
- Promote safe prescribing
- Strengthen statewide collaboration
- Translate data into actionable information
- Promote public education and awareness
- Expand medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
- Reduce access to and negative consequences of illicit drugs
- Address priority populations in high-risk settings
- Build community capacity
There also are two new websites available: ManagePainSafely.org and ManageAddiction.org that allow people to find helpful resources and learn. They also include a Substance Abuse Services Hotline to assist those in need, the San Jose Mercury News reports.
As fentanyl overdose cases now and in the future continue to rise, these preventative measures can be applied to help other states across the country. For many people who are unaware of the dangers of fentanyl, simply increasing awareness is easily something someone can do from home.
Fentanyl increasingly is being linked to overdoses throughout the country. It is cheap, profitable, and is hidden in other drugs that have been killing many unsuspecting people. Fentanyl has turned up on the West Coast after spending many years on the East Coast.
Moving forward, there are many ways to prevent future fentanyl death overdoses. The California Department of Public Health has issued several guidelines to stop this dangerous drug from causing further overdoses by promoting public education and awareness to increasing access to Naloxone. To stop the spread of addictive and dangerous opioids such as fentanyl, all states can follow these guidelines.