Overdose Rates Soar with Fentanyl

What if I told you there’s an opiate drug circulating the United States that is 50 times stronger than Heroin?

What if I told you it was 100 times stronger than Morphine?

How about if I told you that drug (in combination with Heroin) is going to be responsible for roughly 300 deaths in a single South Florida county this year?

Let me introduce you to Fentanyl, a synthetic opiate so powerful that an amount the size of a grain of salt can make the difference in whether you live or die. This drug has become the newest cause for concern in the opiate pandemic that is sweeping the nation.

Fentanyl has been around for decades and is meant to be prescribed to cancer patients or those with extreme pain concerns. It is normally offered in the form of a time-released patch, a lozenge, or injections that are administered by a healthcare professional. Unfortunately, there has been a major surge in illegally replicated forms of the drug that are being trafficked in via China or Mexico.

Besides the deadly potency Fentanyl yields already on its own, the drug is being mixed with other powerful opiates such as heroin, or being disguised to appear as prescription medications like oxycodone or Xanax. So, unsuspecting addicts or drug users think they are purchasing heroin, take the same dose they’ve become accustomed to, and then experience a very different result than they’re used to…they die so fast they don’t even have time to take the needle out of their arm.

So how is this effecting South Florida? In the first half of 2015 alone, opiate deaths from either heroin or fentanyl have risen a combined 110% since last year. According to an article in the South Florida based Newspaper, the Sun-sentinel, appropriately titled “Fentanyl, Heroin fueling a deadly crisis in South Florida that mirrors nation’s opioid ‘pandemic’”, in the first quarter of 2016, the Broward Medical Examiner’s office found 20 people dead from heroin, 28 people dead from fentanyl, and 20 more people dead from a combination of the two substances. These are record numbers and, unfortunately, these numbers are consistent, not only throughout Florida, but throughout the entire nation.

With the words “National Pandemic” and/or “Public Health Emergency” appearing more and more regularly, we have to ask ourselves what is being done about this very serious problem that is effecting our nation so greatly. What is the answer to this problem? Is there one?

I feel we need better regulation of what is crossing our borders, for starters, and we need to work together with these countries from which the drugs are being manufactured and shipped. A perfect example of this is the way the Broward County Sherriff’s department was able to work together with the Chinese DEA to virtually eradicate the manufacturing and distribution of the infamous street drug Flakka.

In the end, I feel it truly comes down to education and a shift in people’s attitude towards the way addiction should be dealt with. I don’t know that we will ever win a “war on drugs” and history has proven that. What we need to continue to work on is the harm reduction model that promotes education, programs like the needle exchange, and the stocking of naloxone in every first responders “utility belt”. Help also needs to be more readily available to those who want it. I am happy to see the government making a shift towards finding a solution to our ever-growing opiate problem.

If we can properly educate the country on what it means to be an addict and how we can all pitch in to help, we can slowly start to decrease the death count and increase the rate of people recovering. How do we do that? Well, the answer to that is above my pay grade!