Fentanyl: Overdoses at a Rapid Pace.
fentanyl overdose

 

Over the years, we have seen overdoses due to fentanyl increase dramatically. What was always a threat to the already deadly epidemic, has increased dramatically. From actors like Michael K Williams to 23 year old Daniel Mickelson, accidental overdoses are becoming more and more likely throughout the country. 

What is Fentanyl?

Defined by the CDC in an article, 

What is fentanyl?

Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain.1 It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is prescribed in the form of transdermal patches or lozenges and can be diverted for misuse and abuse in the United States.

However, most recent cases of fentanyl-related harm, overdose, and death in the U.S. are linked to illegally made fentanyl.2 It is sold through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect. It is often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination product—with or without the user’s knowledge—to increase its euphoric effects.

Deaths involving illicitly manufactured fentanyl on the rise

Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids were nearly12x higher in 2019 than in 2013.

Rates of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, which includes fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, increased over 16% from 2018 to 2019. Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids were nearly 12 times higher in 2019 than in 2013. More than 36,000 people died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids in 2019.3 The latest provisional drug overdose death counts through May 2020 suggest an acceleration of overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What can be done?

The increase in overdose deaths highlights the need to ensure people most at risk of overdose can access care, as well as the need to expand prevention and response activities. CDC issued a Health Alert Network Advisory to medical and public health professionals, first responders, harm reduction organizations, and other community partners recommending the following actions as appropriate based on local needs and characteristics:

Expand distribution and use of naloxone and overdose prevention education.

Expand awareness about and access to and availability of treatment for substance use disorders.

Intervene early with individuals at highest risk for overdose.

Improve detection of overdose outbreaks to facilitate more effective response.

In an article about Michael K Williams in the NYT,  Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be 50 times more powerful than heroin and is cheaper to produce and distribute, has seen increased use in the United States in recent years as an alternative to heroin or prescription opioids. It has also contributed to a rise in fatal overdoses among older people and African-Americans.

In the NYT article, writers Michael Gold and Jonah E. Bromwich state that,  “The actor known for “The Wire,” who was found dead in his apartment earlier this month, died of intoxication by a mixture of heroin, cocaine and fentanyl. He had been open about his struggle with addiction. 

Addiction affects everyone, it has no face, no name, no race or gender. Addiction is a chronic disease of the brain, and with more deaths due to fentanyl overdoses than ever, it is important to spread the word about the recent spikes in death due to fentanyl.” 

The NYT in a recent article also wrote,  “In Cities Where It Once Reigned, Heroin Is Disappearing

The rise of the more potent fentanyl in its place has put a generation of older users, who had managed their addiction, at far greater risk of overdose. The dramatic rise of fentanyl, which can be 50 times stronger than heroin, has been well documented. But its effect on many older, urban users of heroin, who had been able to manage their addiction for years, has been less noticed. 

The dramatic rise of fentanyl, which can be 50 times stronger than heroin, has been well documented. But its effect on many older, urban users of heroin, who had been able to manage their addiction for years, has been less noticed. The shift from heroin to fentanyl in cities has contributed to surging overdose deaths among older people and African-Americans and deeply unnerved many like William Glen Miller Sr., who first tried heroin as a 13-year-old in West Baltimore.”

The shift from heroin overdoses to fentanyl overdoses have been overwhelming. NYT in an article quoting that, “

Also from the NYT, stated that “The reason fentanyl is everywhere is economic: Dealers and traffickers can make far more money from it than from heroin. Instead of waiting months for poppy fields to grow in Mexico and farmers to harvest the brownish-black gum, which then gets refined into powder and shipped north, traffickers here and in Mexico can order fentanyl from China, or precursor chemicals to make it in clandestine labs, generating far more doses with far less labor.

This is not an elegy for heroin, a dangerous drug in its own right that spread from cities into suburbs and rural areas about a decade ago, when addictive prescription painkillers became harder to get. But for longtime urban users like Mr. Miller, many of them African-American, its disappearance is taking a particular toll. From 2016 to 2017, the fatal overdose rate from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids increased by 61 percent among black Americans, compared with a 45 percent increase for whites.

The number of overdose deaths involving heroin has been dropping, even as overdose deaths over all have kept climbing because of fentanyl. In Maryland, deaths involving heroin fell by 38 percent from 2016 through 2018, according to preliminary data. In Massachusetts, heroin or likely heroin was present in 71 percent of opioid-related deaths in 2014; in the third quarter of 2018, it was present in only 34 percent.”

“Fentanyl may still be mixed with heroin or other drugs, but increasingly, it arrives pure — either as powder or pressed into counterfeit pills resembling Percocet or Xanax. It can be diluted with more filler than heroin can, because it takes far less fentanyl to have a powerful effect.

“At the dealer level right now, fentanyl is like a magic dust — it’s a moneymaker,” said Jon DeLena, the associate special agent in charge of the D.E.A.’s New England field division.”

What Are We Doing at Mitchell Medical to Prevent Fentanyl Overdose:

We are educating our patients, their families and our communities about the dangers of street drugs. Already life threatening to buy on the street as is, fenanyl has made the street drug business extremely dangerous and life threatening. 

At home detoxes available at your convenience: 

We specialize in helping those who suffer from drug and alcohol addictions get off of drugs and live a life of sobriety. Now more than ever, if you know someone who is a drug user on the street, please inform them on the harm of fentanyl and call us for questions. We are here to help and are hand in hand with our patients to help them conquer their addiction.

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