The Opioid Epidemic: Fentanyl

Part Two of Two: Fentanyl has been a game-changer

Line of cocaine forms a human skull at the end.

In the last post, we talked about the opioid epidemic in this country and the dramatic increase in overdose deaths, over 70,000 in 2017]. A report released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2017 reported that between 21 and 29% of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them, between eight and 12% of these patients develop an opioid use disorder, an estimated 4 to 6% who misuse  prescription drugs transition to heroin and approximately 80% of the people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.

But there is a new arrival in the drug abuse marketplace: fentanyl. It was first created from morphine in 1874 and marketed by Bayer in 1898 as a cure-it failed- for morphine addiction. It’s illicit use first appeared in the mid-1970s in the medical community. It is most commonly administered by intravenous injection and it may be hundreds of times more potent than heroin. When used properly it can be used in surgery and as an animal tranquilizer. The rise in its production since it is a synthetic drug that can be made in a home laboratory has damaged the market for Mexican poppies. Much of the illicit fentanyl is ordered over the Internet and imported from China through the US mail. In cities where heroin once reigned heroin has been replaced by fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a scary drug. A recent drug bust in New York found enough of the drug to kill two million people. The Pentagon is considering designating the drug as a weapon of mass destruction. Its first cousin carfentanil is even scarier. The drug has been linked to 1200 human deaths. The drug is now being used to lace cocaine fake OxyContin and marijuana. It has even been found in fake Xanax pills.

Buyer beware. These drugs are lethal and when you buy things like Xanax, OxyContin, and cannabis on the street you cannot be assured that they are not laced with one of these drugs. The illicit manufacturers of fentanyl would like to expand their market.

This article was originally posted to Psychology Today, “In the Face of Adversity“, by Dr. Ron Breazeale, Ph.D. With his permission, we will share a series of posts on Chronic Pain and related issues as a prologue to introducing what Maine has to offer for treatment options.
Photo pf Ron Breazeale, Ph,D.
Ron Breazeale, Ph.D.