The opioid epidemic is a nationwide problem that claims tens of thousands of American lives each year. While prescription painkillers have been on the radar for their addictive qualities and potentiality to cause a fatal overdose, new research hopes to steer more attention to synthetic opioids. In particular, fentanyl now seems to be the number one killer in the opioid epidemic.
Researchers from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) combed through years of medical records, hospital reports, and prescriptions to look for the most dangerous painkiller in the country. It found that fentanyl caused approximately 30% of all fatal overdoses in 2016. This amounts to nearly 20,000 lives lost that year alone. As recently as 2010, the synthetic drug was only linked to about 8% of overdose deaths, or 3,000 deaths total for the year.
The Administration checked its findings with U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) data and found similarities. This would suggest the findings were accurate, or accurate enough to be considered reliable for future studies or further investigations.
Why is Fentanyl So Dangerous?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid produced mostly in illegal settings. It is manufactured for the sole purpose of drug abuse. In order to keep production costs down and increase the likelihood of someone to become addicted to the substance, it is manufactured to be, on average, 100 times more potent than morphine. Only a few milligrams of fentanyl are needed to trigger a fatal overdose in an otherwise healthy adult.
The SAMHSA research also found fentanyl and similar synthetics are likely catalysts when mixed with other painkillers. For example, almost 40% of fatal heroin overdoses in 2016 also included fentanyl use.
The danger of fentanyl is heightened by the fact that many people who use it do not know they are. Fentanyl is often laced into other synthetics to heighten their potency. Unbeknownst to someone who might want to only take one Xanax – which is still a dangerous habit when going outside of prescription instructions – they could actually be taking an illegally manufactured Xanax with fentanyl mixed in. Prince, one of the most popular musicians in the world, recently lost his life after overdosing from what is believed to be counterfeit Vicodin with fentanyl lacing.
(For more information about the growing concerns about fentanyl use, click here to view a full article from CBS News.)
Fighting Fentanyl & Taking Control of Your Life
Preventing fentanyl overdoses begins with you. Never take a prescription drug without first consulting your doctor. Never use a medicine without appropriate labeling, as it could be counterfeited and laced with deadly fentanyl.
Although, stopping drug use is far easier said than done. Substance addiction is a real and crippling disease that afflicts millions of Americans. In order to overcome addiction, you may need the assistance of professionals – and there is absolutely no shame in that!
At Acceptance Recovery Center, our Scottsdale rehabilitation specialists are here to guide you down the road to recovery and lasting sobriety. We use a personalized, comfortable approach to rehabilitation that all of our guests enjoy and appreciate. You may benefit from individualized therapy, group therapy, music therapy, all of the aforementioned, or none. The point is we work closely with you to find what works best.
Call or fill out an online contact formto begin.
Dr. Greg Gale has been practicing and providing leadership in the field of psychiatry, substance use, and integrated care in the Phoenix metropolitan area for over 11 years. He joins us from his role as a national medical director overseeing behavioral health, substance use, and integrated care services for Humana Behavioral Health. Previously, he was CMO and VP of Clinical Services at Partners in Recovery, a not-for-profit behavioral health and substance use service organization, which operates five clinics throughout Maricopa County.