1. Addiction

The Growing Fentanyl Addiction Problem

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Fentanyl Addiction is Sweeping the Nation

Fentanyl addiction is officially an epidemic according to many sources so today, we look at what's being done to stem the tide of this deadly drug's rise to infamy.

Fentanyl is among the most notorious and dangerous opioids around. As it rises in popularity, the continuing opioid epidemic problem becomes even more profound and its use results in more and more deaths in the United States. Each year, thousands of Americans overdose and die from using fentanyl. In many cases, users are not even aware that they’re consuming an opioid that has been spiked with fentanyl.

If you are dealing with an addiction or know someone that needs help, contact an addiction hotline today.

So how did we get here? By looking at the origins of fentanyl and how it makes its way into the United States, we can better understand how fentanyl is becoming the problem that it has.

History of Fentanyl

Janssen Pharmaceutica first developed fentanyl in 1959. Back then, it had legitimate medical use as an anesthetic and pain reliever. Sometime during the 1960s, fentanyl was adapted to be used as an intravenous anesthetic called Sublimaze. During the mid-1990s, the fentanyl patch was introduced and could be used in the treatment of chronic pain. After the introduction of the patch, other ways of delivering fentanyl were introduced, like the Actiq lollipop.

The Origins of Fentanyl

Much of the fentanyl we get in the United States comes from China. China isn’t where fentanyl originated, but because of slack regulations in the pharmaceutical industry in that country, China has unwittingly become one of the largest distributors of drugs and chemicals that are highly regulated in other countries. China exports many different types of fentanyl products, including raw fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and counterfeit prescription drugs like oxycodone that are laced with fentanyl. While some of the fentanyl that is consumed comes directly from China, many other Chinese shipments of fentanyl enter the United States illegally through Mexico. Fentanyl may also come through Canada, but that's a less common occurrence. Smugglers have become very creative in coming up with ways to get fentanyl into the United States. In 2015, United States border agents seized approximately 200 pounds of fentanyl among other synthetic opioids. In comparison, in 2014 they seized only about eight pounds of these substances. The good news is that China has shown interest in preventing fentanyl from being exported from their country illegally. In October 2018, there was also a piece of legislation signed into law in the United States called the Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention Act. Despite these efforts, fentanyl remains one of the most problematic opioids in the United States.

A Public Health Crisis

The United States is in the middle of a fentanyl addiction public health crisis. Today, there is more fentanyl available than at any other time since 1959 when the drug was first created. From 2013 to 2015, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seized more than 100 lbs. of illegal fentanyl. Although this may seem small compared to the amount of other illicit substances seized by authorities, fentanyl is more lethal than many of these other drugs because even an extremely small dose (2 milligrams) can be fatal. Fentanyl is often laced with heroin or cocaine without the buyer’s knowledge. This phenomenon of adding chemical adulterants to street drugs contributes to the rising number of fentanyl-related deaths in the United States because users are unaware of their drug’s potency. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2015, 55% of people who died from an overdose of fentanyl additionally tested positive for heroin or cocaine, compared to 42% between 2013 and 2014—a concerning uptick that may reflect an increase in the widespread availability of an adulterated street product. As more people get exposed to it, the worse the fentanyl addiction problem will get. 

Fentanyl is Everywhere

There has been a spike in the number of fentanyl drug seizures in the past 2 years. In 2012, the DEA reported 618 seizures; in 2013, they reported 945 seizures; in 2014, the DEA reported 4,585 seizures. The problem seems to be somewhat localized, with more than 80% of the seizures occurring in just 10 states, with Ohio, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania leading in the number of seizures. Of those states affected, Florida and Ohio are of extreme concern due to sharp increases in the number of fentanyl deaths in these states. This shows that no state or region is immune from infestation. Wherever there are people, there are people abusing substances and invariably, opioids are among them. Fentanyl is an opioid. Fentanyl addiction then, is likely a problem even where you live.

Fentanyl vs. Other Opioids

The effects of fentanyl are very similar to heroin, and its “high” can be described as extremely euphoric. Many people who use the drug become quickly addicted to it. While it is approved by the FDA for medical use, most fentanyl distribution and consumption is illegal. The problem with this kind of illegal distribution is that people do not know the potency of the drugs they are buying. The rise in overdose deaths due to fentanyl is becoming an international wake-up call, showing just how addictive opioids are and how deadly they can be when misused. This synthetic opioid is almost 50-100 times more potent than morphine, and 30-50 times more potent than heroin.

Side effects of fentanyl include:

  • drowsiness
  • confusion
  • constipation
  • weakness
  • dry mouth
  • constricted pupils
  • unconsciousness
  • slowed respirations
  • decreased heart rate
  • nausea
  • sweating
  • flushing
  • confusion
  • stiff or rigid muscles
  • tight feeling in the throat
  • difficulty in concentrating

Street names for fentanyl

  • drop dead
  • China white
  • serial killer
  • shine
  • Apache
  • China girl
  • dance fever
  • goodfella
  • jackpot
  • murder 8
  • TNT
  • percopop

The Rise in the Homelessness Problem Contributes to Fentanyl Addiction

In 2017, there were approximately 554,000 homeless people in the United States. If you've been paying attention to the news, you know that liberal policies towards the homeless have nothing to curb the problem. The result is that the US homeless population is increasing yearly, particularly in younger age ranges. Tragically, homelessness and addiction go hand in hand. Many homeless people live in encampments populated by others, many of whom are addicts. Before long, they may find themselves seeking the escape from their problems that they believe can only come from mind-altering substances. The end result of homelessness is often substance abuse, and substance abuse often contributes to homelessness. The National Coalition for the Homeless has found that 38% of homeless people are alcohol dependent, and 26% are dependent on other harmful chemicals. Often times, addiction is a result of homelessness. The difficult conditions of living on the street, having to find food, struggling with ill-health, and being constantly away from loved ones creates a highly stressful state of being. There are many reason why people become addicted but the bottom line is this: with fentanyl-laced products floating around and considering that even ONE DOSE can kill a person, there's no better time to seek treatment.


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