With the current state to the nation’s rapidly growing heroin abuse epidemic, it seems like every day we’re getting news of another tragic and avoidable case. Rather it is children being put in dangerous situations, families grieving the loss of a loved one, or small areas of the country experiencing extraordinarily high rates of overdose over a short period of time, the heroin abuse epidemic is real and it’s terrifying.
Mostly due to the introduction of Fentanyl into the manufacturing of heroin.
Prior to this recent explosion of heroin overdose, most people had never even heard of Fentanyl before and many still don’t quite know what it is. To help remedy that, here are four fast facts you need to know about Fentanyl.
FACT #1: Fentanyl is a Powerful Opiate
Fentanyl is a powerful opiate pain medication initially developed to treat people with severe pain conditions. Patients prescribed Fentanyl included those who underwent serious surgery, cancer patients, people with severe pain disorders, and the terminally ill. This intense pain killer is also used to treat those who have developed a high tolerance for opiates due to prolonged pain management treatments.
Because Fentanyl is up to 100 time stronger than Morphine and interacts with the neuro-pathways in the brain in the same ways as other opiates, the risks of developing substance dependency and addiction are high. The risk of overdose is also extremely high, especially when Fentanyl is misused and/or combined with sedative medications or street drugs.
FACT #2: Fentanyl is Primarily Produced in China
Drug manufacturing in China saves large pharmaceutical companies billions of dollars each year, but it also leaves the U.S. vulnerable to illicit drug trafficking activities. That’s exact what’s happened in the case of Fentanyl: Chinese drug production factories tied to drug cartels began funneling it out to the U.S. where it is used in making heroin.
Chinese and American authorities are teaming up to help each other deal with the Fentanyl trafficking problem in China. Recently several representatives of the DEA travelled to China to aid in training Chinese drug officers in recognizing signs of Fentanyl-related illicit activity.
FACT #3: Fentanyl is Used to Cut Heroin
Driven by the same motivation as the large drug companies, heroin suppliers across the United States turn to Chinese drug dealers to obtain Fentanyl. They use the opiate for a more nefarious cause: by incorporating Fentanyl into their heroin production, they are able to cut costs while increasing profit. Fentanyl-laced heroin provides a more powerful effect for the user, deepening addiction and furthering the damage caused to communities.
Fentanyl-laced heroin has been found in all corners of the United States. In an effort to protect communities, many law enforcement and medical authorities have turned to public health and safety advisories and outreach programs.
FACT #4: Fentanyl Directly Contributes to the Heroin Overdose Epidemic
Due to the widespread use and abuse of Fentanyl, it is a direct factor in the increase of heroin-related overdoses. This is because the combination of heroin and Fentanyl is hyper-potent, making safe dosages impossible to calculate. Each use of Fentanyl-laced heroin is a shot in the dark when it comes to the dangers of overdose.
The current heroin overdose epidemic has lead to states like Ohio and West Virginia surpassing record-levels of drug-related deaths. In fact, overdose has been the leading cause of accidental death since 2013. In 2015 1.5 times more people died of overdoses than in car accidents.