Fentanyl potency

For instance, just between 2015 and 2016, overdose deaths involving fentanyl more than doubled. In fact, in a recent New York Times publication indicated that fentanyl is killing people faster than the HIV epidemic did at its peak in the 1980s.

So, what is fentanyl? Most of us associate the opioid crisis with heroin or an oxycontin type prescription. Few really know what fentanyl is. Fentanyl is a synthetic painkiller which was originally used to help end stage cancer patients. And, although fentanyl has been a problem for our public health for quite some time, the extent to which it is a nationwide threat is just now coming to light.

Some frightening facts about fentanyl abound. First, fentanyl is about 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more powerful than morphine- a fact most people do not realize. Further, fentanyl can be fatal just by touching it. In fact, even law enforcement officers are highly cautioned when handling the drug. Naloxone, a drug that is used to counteract heroin overdoses, is used in doses 4 to 5 times higher to counteract the negative effects of fentanyl and prevent overdose. Last, withdrawal from fentanyl can take up to 2 months.

Even more alarming, studies by the National Center for Health Statistics indicate that just three years ago deaths related to fentanyl were around 3,000 and are now estimated at 20,000. Most of these deaths are thought to be due to ignorance. That is to say, the users did not realize the dangers of fentanyl, the users did not know that the drug they were using was mixed with fentanyl, and users do not realizers that it takes a much smaller amount of fentanyl to cause an overdose.

Opioid Treatment Not Being Utilized Enough

According to researchers from Blue Cross Blue Shield, individuals “with an opioid use disorder diagnosis spiked 493 percent” – however, the medication-assisted addiction treatment grew by only 65 percent. The last few years have brought alarmingly high numbers of diagnosis of opioid addiction cases—increasing by 500% but many individuals still aren’t seeking for or getting the treatment they need to recover.

Other alarming facts about opioid abuse in the US include (www.seabrook.org),

  • Women 45 and older have higher rates of opioid abuse than men.
  • Overdose deaths for women due to prescription painkillers have jumped more than 400% while for men it has increased by 265%.
  • 10% of the 20.5 million Americans who have a substance abuse disorder are addicted to either pain relievers or heroin, according to the ASAM (American Society of Addiction Medicine).
  • The use of medication-assisted treatment to combat opioid overdose (buprenorphine, naloxone and suboxone) was least common in the South and Midwest, where sadly, addiction rates were highest.
  • According to the CDC, at least 91 people die every single day in the U.S. from an opioid overdose.
  • The CDC also indicates that more people die from drug overdoses in the U.S. than guns or car accidents.
  • Most, (3 out of 4) heroin users start by abusing prescription drugs, according to the National Institutes of Health.

It is vital that individuals who have addictive tendencies or are concerned in any way about being prescribed opioids, talk with their physicians about the risks and dangers of treating pain with opioids.

Top 10 most abused drugs

Recent statistics show that there has been a slight shift in the top 10 most commonly abused drugs. The most noteworthy is marijuana, moving from 3rd place to 2nd place recently. Most speculate this is due on part to the legalization of recreational marijuana in many parts of the country.

1-Alcohol: The CDAC notes that, “with over half (51.8%) of U.S. population identified as drinkers, alcohol is the #1 most abused substance. Nearly a quarter of the population participates in binge drinking (58.6 million), and 6.7% of the population reported heavy drinking (16.9 million). As a depressant, alcohol produces impaired coordination and judgment, slurred speech, and blackouts.”

2- Marijuana: Marijuana is the #1 most abused illicit drug and the third most abused drug according to the CDAC. The CDAC reports that, “the dried parts of the Cannabis plant can cause distorted perceptions, impaired coordination and problems with learning and memory.”

3- Tobacco: At least one quarter of Americans (6.9 million) are users of a tobacco product making it the second most abused drug. Many individuals are drawn to smoking because it stimulates the pleasure centers in the brain and turn on the body’s natural chemicals that produce euphoria. Cigarette smoke contains over 4000 chemicals, causing long-term systemic effects. These risks include high blood pressure and smoking has been proven to increase the risk of cancer.

4-Prescription painkillers: The abuse of prescription drugs is on the rise and has moved up in ranking to be the fourth most abused type of drug. Painkillers, such as Vicodin and OxyContin, are the most abused prescription drugs. These drugs can produce effects similar to heroin. Painkillers can have negative effects on the physical body causing heightened sensitivity to sound and light, hallucinations, blackouts and problems with the lungs, central nervous system, stomach, intestines, liver, kidneys, heart and death from overdose.

5-Cocaine: Although cocaine gained popularity back in the 1980’s, it still remains on the top 10 list of most abused drugs: listed as the fifth most abused. According to the CDAC, nearly 1.5 million people in America are current users of this white powder. Cocaine use results in severe psychological dependence and intense drug cravings. This is due to cocaine’s short-lived yet powerful effects of euphoria. With cocaine, tolerance builds quickly, making it more dangerous.

6- Prescription Sedatives: The most common sedatives are benzodiazepines and tranquilizers. Approximately 2.4 million people in the U.S. are using sedatives for non-medical purposes. These are highly addictive and can cause memory loss, poor motor coordination, paranoia, stupor, suicidal thoughts, aggression, respiratory depression and coma. Mixing sedatives with alcohol is very dangerous and can cause death.

7- Prescription Stimulants: Prescription stimulant drugs have a high addictive rate and about 1.2 million Americans are currently taking prescription stimulants for non-medical purposes. These stimulants, such as Ritalin or Adderall, are usually prescribed for people who have narcolepsy or ADHD. These drugs increase the level of dopamine in the brain causing feelings of euphoria. Abuse of stimulants can cause heart attacks, strokes, depression, malnutrition, hostility and paranoia. Because stimulants increase energy and focus, teenagers are abusing the drug because they believe it will enhance their learning and test scores. The abuse of these drugs has increased significantly on college campuses across the country.

8- Hallucinogens (LSD, ecstasy): Approximately 1.1 million people are currently taking hallucinogens in the U.S. Hallucinogenic drugs are known as PCP, mescaline, Ecstasy, LSD and psilocybin mushrooms. These drugs cause hallucinations and profoundly affect the perception of reality. Some negative effects of using hallucinogenic drugs are delusions, paranoia, panic, terror, despair, psychosis, and psychological illness. Flashbacks from some of these drugs may occur at anytime after using the drug. LSD is reported to be the most popular hallucinogen among users. LSD, also known as “acid,” is the most potent hallucinogen in the world. It is often sold on blotting paper, or “window panes.” The effects of LSD are unpredictable, altering the user’s mood, personality, and sensations of reality. (CDAC, 2012).

9- Heroin: Heroin is known as the most powerful and addictive drug in the world and its use is increasing in the U.S. Heroin induces euphoria by binding to the opioid receptors that control consciousness, breathing and blood pressure. Long-term effects of using heroin include collapsed veins, partial paralysis, memory loss, intellectual impairment, and disease of the heart, liver and kidneys. Heroin is often diluted with other substances creating a high risk of physical complications and death. It is made from poppy plants and is a highly addictive opiate. It can be injected, smoked, or sniffed and creates a feeling of a euphoric rush. Users feel an increased ability to communicate easily with others, and report heightened sexual performance.

10-Methamphetamine: The tenth most abused drug is methamphetamine, also known as meth, crank, or speed. Although last on the list, it shouldn’t be ignored. Meth is popular among young adults. Meth produces feelings of well-being and energy which can last from 4 to 16 hours. Because of its lasting effects, it is a popular drug for both parties and nightclubs. Meth is highly addictive, and burns up the body’s resources and can cause permanent damage to the brain and body.


americantribesopioidabuseAmerican Indian Tribal Leaders Fight Opioid Abuse

This week, American Indian tribal leaders from New Mexico, where heroin and opioid addiction is rampant, met to discuss ways to fight opioid abuse and overdose. Better treatment, prevention education, and more law enforcement were among the top issues of discussion at the meeting.

Indicating that hypodermic needles are found daily, the officials discussed prevention education beginning as young as age 8 in the areas most impacted by the opioid abuse. The cities of Espanola and Rio Arriba have had extremely high numbers of heroin related deaths for years, and New Mexico’s drug overdose rate in 2014 was the second highest in the nation. In fact, Rio Arriba had the highest drug overdose death rate in the state with 81.4 deaths per 100,000 residents last year. Officials are hoping new measures will fight back against these statistics and bring more hope to the impacted areas.

Interestingly, American Indian opioid use is widespread; it’s not a problem that New Mexico is dealing with alone. For instance, American Indian students’ annual heroin use was recently found to be about two to three times higher than the national averages from 2009 to 2012. Further, opioid abuse has even stuck in the most remote, small communities in the country among American Indians.

For instance, in a small Alaskan village of 25,000 residents, 500 were recently deemed to be addicted to opioids. Treatment and prevention are sparse there. Other Alaskan village are suffering as well. Tribes in Maine have recently been provided with the drug Narcan, which reverses the effects of opioids, but more programs like that are needed to combat the ever-growing influence of opioids among Native Americans.


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