Why Thousands of Heroin Users Are Overdosing on Fentanyl

Why Thousands of Heroin Users Are Overdosing on Fentanyl
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Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid drug that can be up to 100 times more powerful than heroin. Unlike heroin, it is a fast-acting narcotic and takes effect almost immediately. It is highly addictive and has been known to send users into life-threatening respiratory distress, making it particularly deadly when taken in large amounts or combined with other drugs.

Why Fentanyl Is Gaining Popularity Among Heroin Users

Fentanyl use is gaining momentum among users of illicit drugs in the United States largely because most people have no idea they’re using it. It is much cheaper to make than heroin, making it an attractive alternative or add-in for dealers and manufacturers. As a result, Fentanyl has made its way into the street drug supply in the last several years, where it is unregulated and often incorporated in life-threateningly large amounts. In some cases, bags of “heroin” bought on the street have been found to contain 100% Fentanyl, with no heroin in them at all.

Fentanyl incorporation into heroin products being made and sold in the streets is due in large part to the ease with which it can be blended into powder-based heroin. This is much more difficult to do with tar-based heroin, though tests using Fentanyl strips have revealed that it is still possible to mix the dangerous opioid into tar and that 2/3 of such tests confirm the presence of at least some Fentanyl.

Fentanyl-Related Deaths Are on the Rise

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 72 thousand people died due to accidental drug overdose last year, which is 10% more than in 2016. Many of these deaths are related to opioid overdose, including those that involve users who are unaware Fentanyl has been cut into their heroin supply.

Some heroin users have taken to using Fentanyl strips to test their supply before using it and carrying around naloxone (also known as Narcan) in anticipation of needing to reverse the effects of drug overdose, which come on much more quickly and powerfully when opioids are involved. However, this has not stopped thousands of heroin users from experiencing tragic, deadly overdose.

Looking to Make a Change? We Can Help.

While you may be able to test your needles and use Fentanyl strips, there is no such thing as truly safe heroin use. This is true regardless of whether opioids have been incorporated into your supply or whether you know exactly what’s in it.

To truly protect yourself and safeguard your future, you need relational support, meaningful accountability, and a safe place to regain freedom and health. At Acceptance Recovery Center, we specialize in addiction recovery and drug rehabilitation in Scottsdale, and our unique programs have helped many people break free from the hold of opiate addiction.

Take the first step today. Call today or contact us to get started.

About Dr. Greg Gale, MD

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. Read more about Dr. Greg Gale, MD