Heroin. Morphine. OxyContin. Vicodin. Mention the term “dangerous opioids” to most people, and these four substances are likely to be the first drugs that come to mind.
Talk about dangerous opioids with someone in the Sacramento area, and it’s increasingly likely that he or she will add another drug to that list: Fentanyl.
A extremely powerful synthetic opioid, fentanyl is commonly employed in medical situations as an anesthetic or to provide relief to individuals who are experiencing intense pain that cannot be controlled by morphine. In clinical settings, fentanyl is typically administered intravenously or via a controlled-release transdermal patch. As befits a drug that is exponentially more powerful than morphine, fentanyl’s use in clinical environments is always closely monitored.
Unfortunately, fentanyl is also abused for recreational purposes. Obviously, recreational fentanyl abusers cannot and do not monitor the safety of those who use this drug. And, as individuals in Sacramento and the surrounding areas recently learned, the dangers of fentanyl use are far from overrated.
On March 29, 2016, the Sacramento Bee reported that 28 individuals in the area had overdosed on fentanyl in the previous six days, and that six of those overdoses had been fatal. On April 6, the Bee issued an update to its initial reporting, putting the overdose total at 48 cases, including six between April 4 and April 6, with 10 fatalities. The ages of those who had overdosed on fentanyl ranged from 16 to 67, with an even split between men and women.
The Sacramento area is not the first to experience a spate of overdoses or deaths related to fentanyl abuse. For example, the number of annual fentanyl –related deaths in Los Angeles County jumped from 40 in 2013 to 62 in 2014. Evidencing the international nature of this problem, during the first three months of 2015, 16 members of the Blood First Nations Tribe in Alberta, Canada, died as a result of fentanyl overdose, and experts estimated that about 300 of the 10,000 tribe members were addicted to the drug.
On the same day that the Sacramento Bee published its first report on the area’s fentanyl epidemic, the U.S. government announced the latest in a series of initiatives designed to combat the abuse of fentanyl and other opioids. Following a February 2016 proposal by U.S. President Barack Obama to devote an additional $1.1 billion to the anti-opioid effort, the March 29 announcement included the following points:
- Expanding access to medication assisted treatment for opioid dependence
- Doubling the number of physicians in the U.S. who are approved to prescribe methadone and buprenorphine (two of the most effective medications used in the treatment of opioid abuse)
- Increasing access to naloxone, a medication that, if given in time, can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose
- Setting up a national Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force
- Establishing more effective partnerships between public health and public safety organizations to fight opioid abuse
While the recent fentanyl overdose epidemic brought renewed attention to the dangers of opioid abuse, this pervasive problem has been wreaking devastation on individuals, families, and communities for decades, and has become worse in recent years:
- The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) notes that the rate of overdose deaths related to prescription painkiller abuse increased by 400 percent between 1999 and 2009.
- Over the same time period, the rate of admissions to treatment by individuals who had been abusing prescription painkillers increased by nearly 600 percent, ASAM reported.
- According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the annual rate of heroin overdose deaths increased by 286 percent between 2002 and 2013.
If you or someone that you care about has been abusing or has become dependent upon fentanyl, heroin, prescription painkillers, or other opioids, the time to act is now. Treatment works, and recovery is possible – but the risks of continuing this behavior without receiving effective care are monumental. To learn more, contact Duffy’s Napa Valley Rehab at your convenience. We look forward to answering all of your questions and helping you to make the most informed decision for yourself or for someone you care about.