The war on drugs has been ongoing for decades. New threats to people with substance abuse disorder continue to be found on the street every year. As if heroin was not dangerous enough, an even more deadly drug is being sold causing an increased number of deaths – a synthetic opioid called fentanyl. Fentanyl-related overdose deaths are rising according to recent statistics.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Janssen Pharmaceutica first developed fentanyl in 1959. At the time, it was primarily used as a pain reliever and anesthetic for medical purposes in cases where pain levels were severe. During the 1960s, fentanyl began to be used as an intravenous anesthetic named Sublimaze. In the 1990’s, a fentanyl patch was developed for pain management treatment of cancer patients.
Fentanyl delivery systems include:
- Transdermal patch:a patch that you place on your skin.
- Buccal tablet:a tablet that you dissolve between your cheek and gums.
- Sublingual tablet:a tablet that you dissolve under your tongue.
- Sublingual spray:a solution that you spray under your tongue.
- Oral lozenge:a lozenge that you suck on until it dissolves.
- Nasal spray:a solution that you spray into your nose.
- Injectable:an injectable solution that’s only given by a healthcare provider.
Illegal Uses of Fentanyl in Street Drugs
Today, fentanyl is commonly added to heroin to increase its potency or is sold as heroin itself by drug dealers. Many users believe that they are purchasing heroin and are not aware they are purchasing fentanyl, often resulting in overdose deaths.
Fentanyl Street Names
Fentanyl has many names on the street including:
- China Girl
- China Town
- China White
- Dance Fever
- Great Bear
- Tango & Cash
- Murder 8
The Effects and Side-Effects of Fentanyl
- Effect: Intense, short-term high
- Effect: Temporary feelings of euphoria
- Side-Effect: Slowed respiration and reduced blood pressure
- Side-Effect: Nausea
- Side-Effect: Fainting
- Side-Effect: Seizures
- Side-Effect: Death
The Fentanyl Epidemic in America
Doctors in the United States wrote over 6 million prescriptions for fentanyl in 2015 alone. While most deaths stem from the non-regulated, illegal manufactured versions, some are connected these medical prescriptions. Aside from the cost of lives, this epidemic is fueled by Mexican cartels, because of its inexpensive and rapid manufacturing process.
Another difficult component to the war on fentanyl is the amount of money drug dealers make from selling this potent new version of heroin. The bigger the financial reward, the more the drug dealers are going to skirt the law to continue selling the product.
Massachusetts is considered the mecca when it comes to heroin and fentanyl. Law enforcement agencies have busted drug traffickers with staggering amounts of fentanyl and heroin, to the tune of 33 pounds with a street value in the millions.
A Public Health Crisis: Fentanyl
A small group of lawmakers has been sounding the alarm on fentanyl since the drug started causing a spike in overdose deaths in 2013. Nearly four years after legislators first received warnings about the dangers of fentanyl, Congress passed a bill in December 2017 specifically targeting the drug. During that time, more than 67,000 Americans had died from overdoses of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. Before the bill in 2017 was passed, previous bills designed to address fentanyl were ignored. Many blame powerful lobbyists who were funded by pharmaceutical industry, which has made billions of dollars from opioids.
Stop Trafficking in Fentanyl Act of 2017
The Stop Trafficking in Fentanyl Act of 2017 bill amended the Controlled Substances Act to modify the drug quantity thresholds that trigger a mandatory minimum prison term for a defendant who manufactures, distributes, or possesses with intent to distribute fentanyl.
Specifically, the bill reduced from 400 to 20 grams the fentanyl quantity and from 100 to 5 grams the fentanyl analogue quantity that trigger a 10-year or 20-year mandatory minimum prison term for high-level first-time or repeat offenders. It also reduced from 40 to 2 grams the fentanyl quantity and from 10 to 0.5 grams the fentanyl analogue quantity that trigger a 5-year or 10-year mandatory minimum prison term for low-level first-time or repeat offenders.
Ending the Fentanyl Crisis Act of 2019
The Ending the Fentanyl Crisis Act of 2019 bill has been drafted to amend the Controlled Substances Act and the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act to modify the offenses relating to fentanyl, and for other purposes. The bill is sponsored by the Junior Senator from Louisiana, John Kennedy (R). This bill is in the first stage of the legislative process. It was introduced into Congress on June 5, 2019. It will typically be considered by committee next before it is possibly sent on to the House or Senate as a whole. As of June 5th, 2019, the bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
The Effects of Fentanyl on the Community
The fentanyl epidemic hit Ohio hard, and the state’s junior senator, Rob Portman (R), has given more than 50 speeches on heroin and fentanyl since 2016. He said lawmakers have long lacked a sense of urgency on opioids, and the legislative process is cumbersome.
Previously, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued an alert to inform citizens that fentanyl is causing overdoses an at alarming rate in the U.S. and is a threat to public health and safety. In fact, in Massachusetts alone, 336 people died from fentanyl-related incidents from October of 2015 to October of 2015, which is a 53% increase from the year prior. The fact that the police crime lab found 425 cases of pure fentanyl in 2015 doesn’t make the future in saving lives, from substance abuse death, promising.
Opioid abuse can lead to unexpected or unforeseen deaths. People who abuse heroin today can be exposed to a number of impurities and additives including fentanyl, at any given time. This is not new to the substance abuse world. For years, far less than pure forms have dominated the drug market. Drug addiction does not care what your race or status is, it affects millions of Americans from all walks of life. Today, it is reported that over 90% of the people who tried heroin over the past several years are White Americans of the middle and upper-class.
We recommend you urge anyone you know who is actively buying and abusing heroin off the street to seek treatment for their addiction immediately. The best way to avoid an accidental overdose or death from a tainted illicit substance is to break the addiction in the first place. Identifying the signs of addiction and taking steps to urge the person seek help can help make a difference.
Fentanyl Addiction Can Lead People to Make Dangerous Decisions
From the standpoint of the user, risking life for a better and faster high is a compromise most are willing to make. People in the grips of substance abuse and addiction don’t have the ability to make decisions from the perspective of a rational thinker. The consequences of their actions are not weighed equally when deciding whether to abuse a drug. The answer to “is it worth it,” is always “yes”. The opportunity to help someone who experiences an overdose using fentanyl near impossible. The threat of death takes place mid-shot for the user. Heroin overdoses, while extremely dangerous, are not always deadly. The person’s overdose could last for a period in which they could be revived with the help of drugs like Naloxone. With fentanyl, we lose that window of opportunity, thus making fentanyl a much greater threat.
Fentanyl Addiction Treatment in Delray Beach, FL
Our staff at Pride Recovery Center won’t stop our mission to fight for the lives of those suffering with substance abuse disorder. The best solution to combat drug addiction in the US is to offer high quality treatment, education of intervention techniques, relapse prevention services, and life-long aftercare support.
At Pride Recovery Center we are devoted to ending addiction by providing cutting-edge therapy services to those in need. We are always looking for better ways to reach the affected masses. As long as we are here, our staff is ready to provide a safe haven to recover from addiction and begin a new life before it’s too late. Don’t wait to save your life or the life of someone you love. You may not get another chance.