Fentanyl: America’s Secret Epidemic

Fentanyl: America’s Secret Epidemic

Health Opioid overdose is rising in most states in the and right here in Erie County. The three most popular opioids are Heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanil- a synthetic opioid that is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl, which itself is 50 times more potent than heroin. 


Most of us are familiar with Heroin, an obvious enemy to public health, but fentanyl and carfentanil are much more different and dangerous as well as one of the deadliest drugs in circulation today. While a few specs of fentanyl can lead to a fatal overdose, it takes even less to die of a carfentanil overdose. Sadly, people cut street drugs with both substances and make them even more harmful and deadly to users.


Fentanyl’s history began in the 1960s for an intravenous anesthetic commercially known as Sublimaze – a Fentanyl injection used to relieve severe pain during and after surgery. It was modified in the 1990s to use as a pain reliever for severe pain, specifically in cancer patients. Eventually, it changed from a liquid form into an easy-to-use gel patch and lollipop form. It is FDA approved as a treatment for severe cancer pain. 


Overall drug use and alcohol consumption in the United States are on the rise. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS), almost 32 million people (11.7% of the population) were actively using drugs as of 2021, with marijuana, prescription stimulants, and methamphetamines as the most popular drugs of choice. Add alcohol and tobacco use, and more than 60% of the US population was actively using some form of substance. While recreational drug use is on the rise, the rise in the popularity of fentanyl is terrifying.


In New York State, unintentional overdose deaths involving fentanyl resulted in 68% of overdose deaths in 2019, compared with 60% of overdose deaths in 2018. One of the primary dangers of the drug is that, without the proper equipment and licensing; it is nearly impossible to tell how much of the substance you are consuming—which is why overdoses are so frequent. 


The Mexican Drug Cartel in its border crossing considers their mixture of Heroin and illegally produced fentanyl to be dangerous, giving it the nickname “the little devil.” If you are dealing with the aftermath of a prescription drug overdose family or friend dies, it is advisable to seek legal help to bring justice to your loved one that has passed. Law enforcement agencies need all the help they can get to keep these drugs out of our communities.


Finally, as a preventive measure, it’s essential to expand community-based naloxone (an antidote to opioid overdose) access and distribution. The speed of a fentanyl overdose (occurring within seconds to minutes) is one of the many reasons to expand that availability for people who use drugs and their peers and loved ones. It’s time to get naloxone in the hands of law enforcement and paramedics.

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