- The past few years have seen fentanyl deaths rise.
- Until today, 63 deaths have resulted from the drug in 2020, a number that is less than one from the whole of last year’s fatalities.
- Illegally-made fentanyl blended with other substances is the major cause of overdoses that result in deaths, an expert says.
- Addicts could be taking fentanyl unknowingly since it is laced with the other drugs these individuals go for, including Xanax and Oxycodone.
Fentanyl deaths have been rising over the past few years. This year alone, 63 people have succumbed to the drug. This translates to one less death than in the whole of last year. Fentanyl deaths in 2018 were only 46.
2019 saw the death of approximately 69,029 people in the country due to overdose. About 7 out of 10 of these deaths were opioid-related. CDC statistics reveal that 47% of all overdose deaths resulted from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, save for methadone.
Angelo Calabrese, a young man who has suffered from the effects of overdose twice, feels he is fortunate to be still breathing. He said that “if you know someone who overdosed on heroin,” you’ll want to try the drug out. He added that “your mind works” in a “pretty insane” manner when you’re addicted.
Fentanyl is absorbed through the skin as a patch. It can also come in powder form. People often mix this latter form with substances like heroin.
Kathryn Barker, a senior epidemiologist at the Southern Nevada Health District, said illegally-manufactured fentanyl mixed with other substances is the major cause of overdoses.
Barker said that people may think they’re consuming Xanax or Oxycodone when the drug actually contains fentanyl. She added that the public should know this fentanyl could be in the substances they are taking even if the consumers are not looking for it.
Director for the Center for Behavioral Health’s Integrated Opioid Treatment Recovery Krista Hales said the number of clients who test positive for opioids without knowing has been increasing. These addicts have admitted to consuming drugs like meth, indicating that they were blended with fentanyl.
Hales added that the group wasn’t encountering people who use pure substance anymore. She said users are blending marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine with fentanyl.
Associate professor of pharmacy at Roseman University of Health Sciences Christina Madison said mixed drugs are the likely cause of fentanyl doses as opposed to legally-prescribed ones. The state changed guidelines for prescribing controlled substances, requiring physicians to offer patient education on how addictive opioids are before writing prescriptions.
To respond to the increased consumption of fentanyl in its clients, the Center for Behavioral Health has broadened medication-assisted treatments. The recovery center offers methadone, Vivitrol, and buprenorphine in oral, injectable, and implanted forms. All these treatments are FDA-approved.
Hales said that while the goal is to stabilize addicts without the medication, some of them need to gradually taper off instead of stopping immediately. This is because several clients are working and are breadwinners for their families. She added that it is unrealistic for some people to “cut the cold turkey.”