In a desperate effort to stop fentanyl-related overdoses, the state of California is offering to pay people to test their drugs for fentanyl. One of the many reasons for doing this is because fentanyl-related deaths in California tripled between 2016 and 2017.
Fentanyl is a highly potent opioid substance that is commonly used to treat physical pain. When prescribed by a doctor and taken exactly as directed, it can be extremely helpful for many people who are experiencing pain. However, taken in any other form other than how it is prescribed can be deadly. Even experimenting with fentanyl one time can lead to death.
Test strips, however, can help those who abuse drugs determine if there is fentanyl within their drugs. Many needle exchange programs already provide test strips so that those who come in to use can ensure what is in the substance they believe they have acquired.
Experts believe that test strips may be ineffective in the long run, as they have not received federal approval, nor has there been enough studies conducted to prove their accuracy. Because of these reasons, many public officials are afraid to provide them to the public.
Despite some controversy, fentanyl test strips are currently being offered to drug users within California. They work similarly to that of a pregnancy test – individuals mix drug residue with water and dip the test strip into the solution. Within five minutes, they will have a result. One line indicates the presence of fentanyl, two lines indicate no fentanyl.
So far, fentanyl test strips have aided in putting a finger on the pulse of this crisis. For example, tests passed out by the Los Angeles Community Health Project have shown that 40% of heroin in the Hollywood area contains fentanyl. This has led to an increase in overdose deaths in this area.
Having fentanyl test strips at needle exchanges has served as an excellent starting point, however, many believe that they need to be offered in more places. There is some pushback to this idea, however, as the Los Angeles Health Department is concerned about the accuracy of the tests. One of the greatest concerns is that the test is too sensitive. However, many believe that it is better to air on the side of caution when it comes to drug abuse.
Johns Hopkins University recently conducted a study that indicated that fentanyl test strips were accurate nearly 100% of the time. It also determined that 70% of drug users changed their behaviors surrounding abuse when they were aware that fentanyl was laced into their substances. For example, they would moderate their use by taking smaller doses knowing that it is more potent with fentanyl in it than without.
Prevalence of Fentanyl in The United States
Almost any day of the week, you can Google “fentanyl” and see several news headlines about people who were arrested for trafficking it or who were under the influence of it when engaging in risky behavior. Many times, you will see headlines that report an increase in fentanyl-related deaths in certain parts of the country.
Just recently, two men were arrested and charged with transporting 118 pounds of fentanyl throughout Nebraska. According to reports, this amount of fentanyl is capable of killing over 10 times the state’s population. In New Jersey, a mother and son duo has been accused of trafficking fentanyl and other substances. Throughout the state of Ohio, deaths caused by fentanyl have increased 1000% since 2013.
Fentanyl is easily considered the most trafficked and transported substance in America. In fact, dealers who never even participated in fentanyl distribution now do, as they can cut their stashes of heroin and other illicit substances like cocaine with fentanyl to expand their profits. Sadly, this is one of the main reasons behind the rise in untimely and unexpected overdoses.
Below are some current statistics related to fentanyl abuse and addiction within the United States:
- CDC WONDER reports that in 2016, more people overdosed on fentanyl than any other drug. In fact, fentanyl had the greatest increase in opioid-related deaths.
- The National Center for Health Statistics reported that 63,600 overdose deaths occurred in 2016, which 20,000 of them caused by fentanyl. They also reported that fentanyl-related deaths increase 88% between 2013 and 2016.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the economic burden of the opioid epidemic (which includes fentanyl) costs $78.5 billion each year.
More About Fentanyl
Fentanyl is not just another prescription painkiller like OxyContin is. It is an incredibly potent medication that is 35 times stronger than heroin. And 50-100 times stronger than morphine. And, in today’s world, it is often found in several other substances of abuse.
When abusing fentanyl, individuals can quickly go into respiratory distress and stop breathing, which can lead to death. This is an especially greater risk when an individual is abusing drugs like heroin and cocaine that have fentanyl in them. And, even though naloxone (also known by the brand name Narcan) has proven to help many people come back from a potentially deadly overdose, many times it is not effective when exceptionally strong opioids like fentanyl are coursing through the body.
The most common signs of fentanyl use include the following:
- Respiratory depression, distress, or arrest
The longer that fentanyl is abused for, the more likely an individual is to suffer severe consequences of that use, such as unemployment, divorce, loss of child custody, poverty, and homelessness. Additionally, an individual increases his or her risk of overdosing on fentanyl as he or she continues to use more and more of it to obtain the desired high.
The only way to properly treat a fentanyl addiction is by obtaining professional care at a rehab center. There, individuals can detox while being monitored 24/7 by medical professionals, receive therapy from licensed and experienced therapists and psychiatrists, and develop plans on how to move forward after sobriety has been accomplished.
Get Help Today
Having an addiction to fentanyl can feel like being trapped on a hamster wheel. It keeps going faster and faster until you eventually fall off. If you have come to the realization that you need professional care to kick your fentanyl addiction to the curb for good, call us today. We can provide you with several different treatment options that can help you restore your wellbeing, lay a strong foundation for recovery, and begin taking the right steps to achieve your goals.
You are not alone. You do not have to continue to abuse fentanyl, as there is hope. Call us right now to get the support and guidance you need.