How the Pandemic has Compounded Fentanyl Overdoses

Fentanyl has become one of the most pervasive and deadly substances in North America’s ongoing struggle with opioid addiction. This opioid is inexpensive to manufacture, and it also has the potential to kill indiscriminately.

Addiction recovery experts are finding that people from all backgrounds are risking their lives by taking fentanyl. After overdose fatalities leveled off in 2019, the situation has become even worse during the COVID-19 pandemic and have increased dramatically again.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. It is similar in composition to morphine; however, it is up to 100 times more potent. Fentanyl is prescribed to treat severe pain after surgery and for patients with chronic pain who have become physically tolerant to other types of opioids. Physical tolerance happens when someone needs a higher and/or a more frequent amount of a drug to achieve the desired effects. Fentanyl is also made illegally and available on the street.

As people who are struggling with opioid addiction develop a higher level of physical tolerance, they need to take more drugs to experience the high they are seeking. With long-term opioid use, they may turn to fentanyl as a stronger drug to get that experience.

Isolation During Pandemic Increases Fentanyl Use

The COVID-19 pandemic has not helped the situation. When people who are at risk for addiction are staying at home and don’t have to go to a workplace, they have more freedom to indulge in substance abuse. Before COVID, someone in this category might tell themselves that they can’t use before or during work. They may consider this a place where they need to have themselves “together.” When working from home, though, there is a temptation to treat the arrangement as more casual. Some people may feel more free to use their drug of choice during work hours in this situation.

The isolation of working from home can be dangerous for those in recovery, too. It can create a situation where a recovering addict has too much time on their hands where they can think about using and how it felt to be high. If the person in recovery gives in to that urge, they may not realize that their drug of choice may be cut with fentanyl, which is cheap and easily accessible.

Fentanyl, like other opioids, can cause an overdose by acting on the user’s nervous system. In sufficiently high amounts, this drug can slow down the respiration rate, leading to coma and even death.