Do I really know what I’m taking?
It’s a good question to ask yourself the next time you find a pill in your hand.
The multivitamin you took this morning, the aspirin you took for your knee, a tab of melatonin to help you sleep: chances are, they all came out of a box or bottle with a label, a list of active ingredients and so on.
Buy pills on the street, well … you take your chances.
It’s not just a question of getting burnt by a dealer, either. Increasingly, street buyers are purchasing drugs tainted with fentanyl, and paying a lethal price.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid like morphine, but far more powerful. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates fentanyl’s potency is 50 to 100 times stronger. Like other strong painkillers, fentanyl is used to treat severe and chronic pain, particularly in those who have developed a tolerance to other opioids.
First developed in the late 50s, fentanyl was strictly an IV drug until dermal patches were introduced during the 1980s. Other delivery methods, including oral, dissolving strips and tablets were later introduced. Until recently fentanyl was largely overshadowed by street opiates and opioids like heroin.
Not anymore. The latest in a series of overdose waves, fentanyl’s deadly profile has increased since the last decade.
3 Waves Of Overdoses
According to researchers, there have been three distinct waves of opioid addiction and overdoses in the U.S. A study published in 2019 called it the “triple wave.”
During the late 1990s, the country began to see an increase of deaths from abuse of prescription opioids. Traditionally intended for patients recovering from major surgery or undergoing treatment for cancer, physicians began to increasingly prescribe opioid painkillers like Oxycodone to treat less severe conditions such as chronic pain, leading to the first wave of increased dependence and overdose.
As opioid painkillers came under increased scrutiny and control, users turned to street heroin. An infamous street drug, heroin began driving a second wave of overdose rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), illicitly manufactured fentanyl began to show up on the street in 2013, creating the third (and current) wave of overdoses.
The CDC reports there were over 81,000 drug overdose deaths in a 12-month period ending in May, 2020, leading the agency to consider the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as a potential driving factor in overdoses. Although opioids weren’t responsible for all of the deaths in that 12-month period – cocaine overdoses also saw a substantial increase – the CDC reports the overwhelming number of US jurisdictions reported a rise in opioid-related deaths.
Alarmingly, more than half of those jurisdictions reported increases higher than 50 percent.
Where Fentanyl Fits In
In April 2021, the American Society of Addiction hosted an online meeting about addiction and the steady rise of overdoses.
Fentanyl played a role: according to NIDA director Nora Volkow, MD, fentanyl-tainted drugs are driving not only opioid overdoses, but overdoses from other drugs. “It’s rare to find people who only overdose on cocaine or who only overdose on methamphetamines. Fentanyl is being used to lace the illicit drug market because it’s very profitable,” said Volkow.
Indeed, NIDA says some dealers use fentanyl as a cutting agent to extend their supplies of drugs such as MDMA, cocaine and heroin. Fentanyl’s potency means small amounts of the drug can produce a high, making it a cheap way for dealers to increase their stock. That’s not the only risk street buyers face, though.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) reports imitation prescription pills often contain fentanyl rather than what they’re sold as. Pills sold on the street as Xanax and Percocet have caused fatal and non-fatal overdoses across the US and are often manufactured overseas and smuggled into the US via drug cartels, DEA researchers warn.
Can Fentanyl Addiction Be Treated?
As we’ve said, Fentanyl is an extremely powerful drug and its potency makes dependence and addiction much more likely, even in a prescribed setting. However, despite its potency, fentanyl addiction is treated the same way as addiction to other opioid/opiate drugs such as pain pills and heroin.
Recovery from any opioid drug isn’t easy, however. Drug cravings can be intense, the symptoms of withdrawal can take time to get through and because of fentanyl’s intense lethality, relapses can be dangerous. It’s why finding the right addiction recovery provider is key.
Going into treatment is often only half the battle – people are often shaped by the environments they live in. During recovery, it’s critically important to have a place to live in that’s free from distractions, temptations, and other negative influences. It’s why so many recovering people find success and happiness in sober living houses.
But where to find a house? SoberLivingNearYou.com puts a powerful tool in your hands. With our directory, you’ll be able to find the ideal sober living house for your – or a loved one’s – needs, budget, and other considerations.
With so much fentanyl available on the street, it’s more important than ever to get help. Start your search today!