Comedian Fukan Johnson. 16-year-old “flash” actor Logan Williams. “The Wires” Michael K. Williams.
These well-known names are just a few of the recent accidental overdose-related deaths associated with fentanyl. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it was also discovered that more drugs were contaminated with deadly drugs.
There is a story like Brenda Brett from Georgia, my beloved cousin. Relatives say she didn’t know she was taking Xanax mixed with fentanyl.
They claim she didn’t want to die. Her aunt found her dead body collapsing on her nightstand, and her boyfriend was also dead sandwiched between their bed and the wall.
They are just a few of the 40,000 Americans who die each year from toxic levels of opioids in their bodies, a hard-to-find synthetic version that warns experts that the market is flooding and moving rapidly. It is a problem that is exacerbated by the drug. The hands of an unsuspecting user.
According to the National Institute of Substance Abuse, fentanyl (80-100 times stronger than morphine), along with other synthetic opioids, is a major cause of death from overdose in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths set a new record in the United States with 96,779 people between March 2020 and March 2021 instead of a pandemic.
That number is expected to increase to nearly 100,000.
Often made in the lab, illegal versions are sold as powders or placed in tablets that look like prescription drugs. Even grain-sized amounts can be killed.
“Fentanyl is hijacking the illegal market,” NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow told USA Today.
What is fentanyl?
Fentanyl was first developed in 1959 as a powerful analgesic for clinical use via IV. According to an article in the American Pain Society, patches were created in the 90’s to allow patients to administer the drug locally. Most often, they are cancer patients or patients who are being treated for chronic pain. Then came the troches and tablets.
After that, it didn’t take long for drugs to hit the illegal market.
Fentanyl is much more potent than heroin and morphine, but activates the same opioid receptors in the brain. It’s a cheaper and more attractive option for drug trading, as even small amounts can give users the same high price, says Dr. Nora Volkow.
“Drug sellers are maximizing their profits by strapping and contaminating narcotics such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine with fentanyl,” Volkow said. “By doing so, they make them much more powerful. This is the essence of the most challenging problem we have.”
“This is worse than the crack epidemic.”
According to a public security alert from the US Drug Enforcement Department, the lethal dose of fentanyl is small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil.
In 2016, NIDA began to see an increase in fentanyl-related overdose, which continues to increase.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a 38.4% increase in synthetic opioid mortality between June 2019 and May 2020. State and local health departments have linked this increase to illegally manufactured fentanyl.
The drug’s deaths were previously concentrated in 28 states east of the Mississippi River, according to the CDC report, but in 10 states in the west, overdose of synthetic opioids increased by 98% over the same time frame.
This increase was consistent with the production of large amounts of fentanyl and a positive fentanyl toxicology drug test during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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“Most of the overdose of fentanyl is in combination with other drugs such as heroines, cocaine and methamphetamine,” Volkow said. “It’s everywhere from the East Coast, the West Coast, and the heart of the United States.”
She said she usually does not take opioids, but drug users who use cocaine or amphetamines are at increased risk of overdose from fentanyl.
“They get the drug and they are not accused, it is contaminated with fentanyl and they do not have opioid resistance.”
According to Volkow, fentanyl contamination increased in 2020, down to urine collected by rehab facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
How did the pandemic affect the use of fentanyl?
According to CPB data, the amount of fentanyl seized by the US Customs and Border Protection increased by 51.45% in the first eight months of 2021 compared to 2020.
Last month, £ 1,123 of the drug was confiscated, compared to £ 702 in August 2020.
2.85 kilograms of fentanyl was found in a wooden display box shipped from Mexico, and a seizure, like Memphis, where $ 182,000 of fentanyl was seized from inside the vehicle during a routine inspection at a port in Brownsville, Texas, from Mexico. Some of them became a hot topic.
“Fentanyl is in the form of powder or tablets and is so powerful that small amounts of smuggling can still be profitable. Small amounts have more ways to hide it in smuggling attempts. That means, “CPB spokeswoman Matthew Daiman told USA Today in an email.
He said the increase in narcotics was likely due to a significant increase in illegal immigrants.
“COVID travel restrictions hindered some aspects of border drug trafficking due to light traffic, more time spent inspecting travelers, and increased drug seizures, but people By staying at home instead of going to work, he said.
“There are many conflicting ups and downs.”
It is not uncommon for temporary increases in drug use to be reported after a disaster such as the 9/11 attack.
Dr. Andrew Saxon, a member of the American Psychiatric Association’s Addiction Psychiatry Council, said: “The easy and natural way to deal with it is to ingest the substance, which is usually the worst in the long run.”
Most of the research done since the beginning of the pandemic has focused on the use of alcohol and cannabis.
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In the event of an overdose, Saxons said it may be difficult to determine whether it is unintentional or suicide, as many people take opioids alone.
“Some of the increased mortality from overdose could actually be an increase in suicide due to increased depression and hopelessness,” said the Saxons. “Overdose of all drugs increased in 2020.”
Fentanyl goes home
Sean Keys, 44, was prescribed a fentanyl patch when he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma skin cancer while in prison in 2003.
Keys used patches and other opiate-prescribed threws to relieve the pain caused by chemotherapy. He later developed opioid addiction.
When released from prison, he easily found fentanyl on the street, but said he had quit the cold turkey when his mother was diagnosed with cancer.
His drug addiction was resolved, but family tragedy brought fentanyl back into his life.
In 2017, cousin Brenda Brett and her boyfriend died of accidental fentanyl exposure after ingesting what appeared to be Xanax pills, according to Keys.
“My aunt found them dead,” Keys said. “My cousin tried to get out of bed, but fell on the nightstand and it looked like his boyfriend was caught between the bed and the wall.”
Keys said Brett was very extroverted, enjoyed and enjoyed, and had the classic “middle child syndrome.” She loved to be the center of attention.
According to Keys, he was her favorite cousin and remembered Brett trying to visit him while traveling the country.
“She had problems for years, but when she died, the world lost a huge bright light,” Keys said. “She hated bullies and was a great guy to stick her neck out for everyone.”
Her overdose was investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and autopsy observed by USA TODAY found traces of Xanax, amphetamine, methamphetamine, morphine, and fentanyl in her blood.
When Brett died, the system contained 7.7 micrograms per liter of fentanyl. GBI told USA TODAY in an email that determining the general concentration of fentanyl in the system would be fatal, on a case-by-case basis.
Dose greater than 3 nanograms per liter can cause central nervous system depression and loss of airway reflexes, according to a peer-reviewed study published in the journal Annals of Palliative Medicine entitled “Why Avoid Fentanyl” ..
Brett had 7,700 nanograms.
“This was a real problem with tablets being sold online and on the street,” David Dietz, a professor and dean of pharmacology at the University at Buffalo, told USA Today.
“Because of the inherent risks of taking prescription drugs without the supervision and order of a doctor, we cannot be sure that she is alive without fentanyl in the pill.”
According to Dietz, taking unprescribed or unprescribed medications on the street can be seriously harmful because you don’t know how they will affect your health and you don’t know what they contain. there is.
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“You take what you think is Xanax, which is contaminated with fentanyl,” he said. “Users don’t know how their own risk factors play a role, even if the drug is in the amount they expected.”
Brett had previously suffered from methamphetamine addiction, but before her death told Keys, she wasn’t using the drug of her choice, so she thought she was calm.
“She was taking enough medicine to know the dangers of taking fentanyl. I don’t think she would take it voluntarily,” he said.
Fentanyl in other drugs, according to Dietz, adds fuel to the growing opioid epidemic and is ubiquitous.
“This is a problem for all classes and age groups,” he said. “That’s a real problem.”
Drugs are becoming “much more dangerous”
In most cases, it is very difficult for a user to determine if a drug is contaminated with fentanyl without using the fentanyl strip test, a drug testing tool available to the user.
“Many people taking stimulants aren’t looking for fentanyl, so the use of strips can be very helpful,” Volkow said.
Strip testing, increased access to naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdose, and education are tools Volkow says are needed to curb fentanyl use.
For those who may be considering drug experiments, Volkow said it was important to emphasize the devastation of addiction.
“People may often say that experimenting is not a big deal and the fees are my favor,” she said. “But in reality, drugs are much more dangerous than they used to be.”
Follow reporter Asha Gilbert @ Coastalasha. Email: email@example.com.
Here’s why drugs are so dangerous
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