Recent news headlines reveal a harrowing reality: Drug overdoses are reaching record rates, and synthetic opioids are to blame. We’re seeing it from coast to coast, nationwide, without any discrimination of who or which neighborhoods are affected. Fentanyl is popping up everywhere, and causing fatal overdoses among teens and adults alike. Below are some of the stories to reach our screens in the last four weeks alone:
Fentanyl Deaths are Soaring in Texas.
Largest Jump in Colorado Overdose Deaths in More Than 20 Years.
Arizona Teens are Overdosing at Alarming Rates.
Drug Overdoses Soar in Kentucky, Blamed Mostly on Fentanyl.
In Georgia, Rising Opioid Overdoses Don’t Discriminate.
Delaware Sees Record Year for Overdoses – Again.
Overdose Deaths Spike in Connecticut During 2020.
Drug Overdoses Killed A Record Number Of Americans In 2020.
The main thread, and the main culprit, of all these tragedies? Fentanyl. New data from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released just last month, highlights the rising number of fentanyl overdoses in the United States.
For the year 2020, the CDC predicts that the number of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. will exceed 93,000—an increase of almost 30% from 2019, which in itself was a record-breaking year for fatal overdoses. Based on preliminary figures, roughly 57,000 people overdosed on synthetic opioids like fentanyl, accounting for almost two-thirds of all the fatal overdoses in 2020. And, according to several sources, we’re on track for another record-breaking year for fentanyl overdoses in 2021.
Back in June 2021, NPR’s Brian Mann predicted, “If current trends continue, illicit drugs will soon kill more Americans every day than COVID-19.”
Drug overdoses have been climbing for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated numbers more than ever before. More people are suffering from mental health issues, and throughout the pandemic, struggling with increased social isolation and inaccess to treatment. With that said, however, the rising number of fentanyl overdoses remains a shocking statistic.
There are several factors contributing to the rise in fentanyl overdose deaths, including increased drug abuse due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the main driver of this epidemic is the rising number of drugs being laced with fentanyl. Users are purchasing illicit drugs like cocaine and meth, without knowing that it contains the dangerous fentanyl. The problem is, even the smallest traces of fentanyl are enough to cause a fatal overdose.
Drug manufacturers are making fentanyl illegally, due to its low cost and the high power that the drug holds. Fentanyl is up to 100 times more potent than morphine, 50 times more potent than heroin, and provides users with extremely intense, mind-altering effects. Fentanyl is highly addictive for this reason. It is also extremely dangerous. Two milligrams of fentanyl, less than a pinch of salt, is enough to be lethal.
According to a recent alert from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the government has found laced, counterfeit pills containing up to two times the lethal dose of fentanyl per tablet.
The DEA also cites that one kilogram of fentanyl has the power to kill 500,000 people. The scariest part? Drug traffickers typically distribute fentanyl by the kilogram.
“It is possible for someone to take a pill without knowing it contains fentanyl. It is also possible to take a pill knowing it contains fentanyl, but with no way of knowing if it contains a lethal dose.”
Why It’s Important We Talk About Fentanyl
We’ve talked about the rising number of fentanyl overdoses before—this news is not entirely new. Each year, the number of deaths due to synthetic opioids continues to climb higher. So, what makes this new data so alarming?
One of the main, disturbing issue today is that fentanyl is reaching drug users who weren’t historically at risk. Cocaine users, for example, are now at a much higher risk of buying cocaine that is cut with fentanyl. For those who have not historically used opioids—which is a lot of cocaine users—the risk of overdose is much higher, due to a lack of tolerance. The smallest amount of fentanyl can be lethal in these circumstances.
In the last month, there have been reports of fentanyl mixed into drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, MDMA, and counterfeit prescription pills of all types, from Xanax to Oxycontin. Without testing these illegal drugs, one cannot know whether they contain fentanyl (or how much). Anyone who is buying illicit drugs, therefore, is now at risk of fentanyl overdose.
“Fentanyl is being mixed in with other illicit drugs to increase the potency of the drug, sold as powders and nasal sprays, and increasingly pressed into pills made to look like legitimate prescription opioids. Because there is no official oversight or quality control, these counterfeit pills often contain lethal doses of fentanyl, with none of the promised drug.”
It is important to spread awareness, now more than ever, about the dangers of fentanyl. It is also important for teens, young adults, and drug users of all ages to recognize this new reality: Drugs of all classifications, from seemingly legitimate prescription pills to party drugs, are being laced with fentanyl. There are no exceptions. No matter how much you trust your “source,” the risk of fentanyl use and overdose still exists. This is true for both seasoned users and first-time users.
If you or someone you know is using drugs, or thinking about using drugs, take time to consider the serious danger involved. Consider carrying Narcan if you know someone at risk. Additionally, consider buying testing kits (like fentanyl strips) to reduce the risk of fentanyl-laced drugs. However, remember that these tools are not fool-proof. The best protection against fentanyl abuse and overdose is professional opioid treatment.
If you know someone who is struggling with drug use and needs an intervention, consider contacting a professional for help. It is never too early to seek treatment for a drug problem, but it can be too late. If you need guidance and are unsure where to start, you can always contact Turnbridge. We are a recognized drug treatment center for teens and young adults, and are just one call away. Call 877-581-1793 today to get help.
Recognizing International Overdose Day: August 31st
On August 31st, Turnbridge – along with thousands of treatment professionals, families, and individuals – will honor International Overdose Awareness Day. This day is the world’s largest annual campaign to end overdose, to honor the lives lost to drugs, to grieve with the families who have lost, and to acknowledge that action is needed to combat the ongoing overdose crisis. Drug overdose kills hundreds of Americans every day, and even more globally. By helping our loved ones into treatment, and taking steps to stop drug overdoses in our own lives, we can make an impact. Learn how you can get involved by visiting https://www.overdoseday.com/.