Opioid abuse and the dangerous epidemic
It is no secret that synthetic opioids have become a huge problem in this country, to the point where President Obama has addressed the issue in an attempt to raise awareness among the population about the potential epidemic that we have on our hands. He has worked across the aisle in Congress in order to pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and has partnered with such celebrities as Macklemore, in order to spread the word and offer a much-needed reprieve to communities stricken by the problem of opioid addiction.
In 2014 there were 47,055 drug related deaths in this country and a majority of these were attributed to opiates in one form or another. With this rise in opiate related overdose deaths there has been the advent of life-saving overdose medications like Narcan which are now being offered over the counter in some states. While opiate addiction is not something new, the manner in which opioids are being abused has changed dramatically in the past 20 years.
In the mid 90s Purdue Pharma introduced Oxycontin to US markets under the guise that the drug was a safer and less addictive alternative to traditional opiates. Oxycontin being a semi-synthetic opioid turned out to not only be stronger than many other opiates on the market, but also proved to be incredibly addictive. Many people throughout the first 10 to 15 years of its existence became hopelessly hooked on the drug and unable to break away, many escalated their drug usage to more illicit substances.
The popularity and addictiveness of Oxycontin is what laid the groundwork for the current explosion of synthetic opioids that we see reeking havoc across the country, and when the drug became less accessible, due to stricter government controls, it created a vacuum in the market that has since been filled with synthetic opioids of a different kind.
Some of these opioids were completely legal for a period of time, as manufactures of the drugs, often outside of the US and outside of any real regulation, tinkered with the chemical makeup of the drugs in order to skirt US drug laws. Drugs such as Pink, or U-47700, which is said to be seven to eight times stronger than morphine, made its way onto US shores and in 2015 was the source of a number of overdoses in States around the country.
As the government struggled to keep with the ever-changing chemical compounds of these new drugs, finding ways to police the substances became increasingly difficult. Whenever one form was outlawed another would pop up and so the cycle continued on and on.
Then this past year synthetic opioids started to effect to the nation in a different manner and this was with the outbreak of overdoses that we have seen as a result of heroin being cut with the incredibly strong synthetic opioid fentanyl. Fentanyl is said to be 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and so even someone who has a tremendous tolerance for opioids can overdose and die from just using a little too much of the drug.
A friend of mine who is a police officer in New Jersey explained to me the situation. He told me that in the past 6 months he has administered Narcan more times than in the entirety of his career. He says it is essentially all he is doing these days and said that a person who is used to doing a couple of bags of heroin at a time, if they get one of these fentanyl laced batches and do the same amount, they will more then likely overdose because of the strength.
The frightening thing about the fentanyl-laced heroin, besides the amount of overdoses it is producing, is that it doesn’t appear to just be a localized problem, but is happening all over the country.
South Florida, a mecca for drug treatment centers, and so therefore drug addicts has been experiencing drug overdoses because of the fentanyl-laced heroin at an alarming rate. Last month it was reported that the area was suffering an overdose every 2 hours, meaning 12 a day, and other states, such as Massachusetts, Ohio, and various others are experiencing similar things.
While fentanyl is a legal drug, that can be obtained from a doctor, majority of the fentanyl that has been linked to this string of drug overdoses is reported to have come from Chinese manufactures. The drug is reported to have been altered so that they can bypass the US ban on the drug and the results have been catastrophic.
As if this wasn’t enough there have now been reports in parts of Canada and in Ohio of opiates being cut with Carfentanil, a drug that’s only legal purpose is the sedation of large animals, like elephants. This drug is said to be 10,000, yes that’s ten thousand, times stronger than morphine and the only side effects that it produces in humans is death or a coma.
When veterinarians administer the drug, they have to wear protective gloves and eyewear because even a dose as small as a grain of sand could be lethal. This means that taking this drug is pretty much suicide and what’s worse is that there is really no way of knowing if your drug is cut with it.
In one Ohio town this past summer there were 96 overdoses in 4 days because of Carfentanil and in August Canadian border patrol seized a shipment of the drug that was large enough to produce 50 million overdoses.
So as we go into the back end of this year, it is looking like we will unfortunately have another record setting year for drug overdoses in this country and this is mostly because of synthetic opioids. The technology available to drug producers these days is staggering and because of this they are able to create drugs that are more powerful than anything we have seen. These drugs are making their ways into most American communities and because of this families are suffering. How we go about stopping the danger that is synthetic opioids, I am not sure, but I hope that we figure it out soon.
Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.