Is Fentanyl Addiction America’s Number One Drug Problem?

Fentanyl addicts

Fentanyl, the highly potent and addictive synthetic opioid pain reliever, has been making headlines and American heads for several years. The drug is said to be 10 times stronger than heroin and 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. With as much fentanyl as can fit on a thumbtack, a user could overdose and cause death. Is this why most of the opioid deaths in the US today are linked to fentanyl? And if so, why is fentanyl still used in medical settings?

While there is a wide range of harmful substances in the US, fentanyl is “Public Enemy No. 1” when it comes to addiction problems.

Fentanyl defined

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but much stronger. Fentanyl is a prescription drug for medical use, but it is also illegally made in secret drug laboratories. It is usually used in medical settings to treat patients with severe pain, especially after surgery. It is also sometimes used to treat patients who are physically tolerant of other opioids. But even when used as intended, fentanyl harbors serious addiction risks and other side effects.

Like heroin, morphine, and other opioid drugs, fentanyl works by attaching to the body’s opioid receptors. Such receptors are located in the brain and control the body’s response to pain. When someone takes fentanyl (or any opioid) multiple times, the body builds tolerance to the drug. This phenomenon decreases sensitivity and makes it more difficult for the person to enjoy anything other than the drug, and it also results in them requiring more of the drug to get the same feeling about it.

Fentanyl overdose statistics

Girl in hospital after overdose

As the human body becomes more tolerant of fentanyl, the user has to ingest more and more of it to get the euphoric high that he expects. But every time fentanyl is used, the addict puts himself at risk of overdose. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “In 2019, nearly 50,000 people in the United States died from opioid-related overdoses. Opioid abuse and addiction – including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids like fentanyl – is a serious national crisis affecting public health and social and economic well-being. ”

Unfortunately, fentanyl overdoses are becoming more common each year. Again according to NIDA, Synthetic opioids like fentanyl were the leading cause of drug overdose deaths, with an almost 14-fold increase from 2012 to 2019. In 2012, fewer than 4,000 Americans died from fentanyl. But more than 40,000 Americans died from the drug every year through 2019.

Fentanyl seizures are increasing despite efforts to reduce the supply

As fentanyl addiction has increased, so has the market for illicit fentanyl. Demand for fentanyl increased among drug cartels, and it wasn’t long before illicit fentanyl was being made in secret drug laboratories in Mexico, the United States, and overseas.

One of the metrics used to measure illicit fentanyl production is drug seizures. According to Addiction magazine, “The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that between October 2020 and March 2021 2.5 tons of fentanyl were confiscated. This means a steady increase in fentanyl seizures since 2014 and is more than three times the amount seized ”. in the same period last year. ”An increase in fentanyl backups strongly suggests that illicit fentanyl is being made to meet increasing demand from drug users who are heavily dependent on it.

As a side note, the Drug Enforcement Administration sought to reduce the supply of fentanyl by limiting legal fentanyl production and stepping up efforts to crack down on illegal fentanyl production.

Unfortunately, pressure from the Covid-19 pandemic forced the DEA to reduce its restrictions on fentanyl production. Again citing a short message from the Addiction Journal: “The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has temporarily lifted a cap on fentanyl production. The total production quota (APQ) for fentanyl production was reduced by 31% in December 2019 to reduce supply in response to the opioid crisis in the US by doctors since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Approval of an increase in fentanyl -Production can help Covid patients on ventilators, but it undoubtedly also has the deleterious effect of increased discharge of fentanyl into the hands of addicts.

Fentanyl is mixed in with the supply of non-opioid drugs

Paramedics on the emergency call
Photo by gorodenkoff / iStockPhoto.com

Fentanyl is increasingly being found in toxicological reports not only on opioid deaths but also for other drugs such as cocaine and meth. According to NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow: “Deaths from methamphetamine overdose rose sharply in 2009, and preliminary figures from the CDC show that by 2019 they had increased ten-fold to over 16,500. A similar number of people die each year from cocaine overdoses (16,196), which increased almost as much over the same period. Although stimulant use and use disorders vary from year to year, national surveys have found that use had not increased significantly during the period when overdoses of these drugs escalated, meaning that the increase in mortality is likely due to the use of these drugs Combination with opioids such as heroin or fentanyl, or the use of products that have fentanyl added to them without their knowledge. ”This is very worrying as the effects of taking opioids at the same time as stimulants like cocaine or meth can be extremely harmful themselves if they are not fatal.

Fentanyl permeates the drug supply, causing immeasurable damage with every step and an increase in overdose deaths. Unless massive measures are taken to address the fentanyl problem, it will continue to spread to the supply of non-opioid drugs. Soon even drug addicts who actively try to avoid fentanyl will be exposed to it.

The importance of treating fentanyl addiction

Fentanyl addiction is an extremely difficult and highly dangerous crisis of the mind, body and soul. Because fentanyl is so powerful, those who take it risk their lives immediately. Given that fentanyl overdoses are on the rise, fentanyl is added to other drugs, and the fentanyl trade is becoming increasingly problematic, it is safe to say that fentanyl is America’s number 1 drug problem.

For these and other reasons, if you know someone who is experimenting with fentanyl, please take them to a drug and alcohol treatment center as soon as possible. Any incident of fentanyl use can be fatal.