Tag Archives: fentanyl

Report on Substance Use: Alcohol Holds No. 1 Spot

Reports about the opioid crisis and drugs fentanyl, carfentanil and heroin have dominated recent headlines. During the years 200-2016, the number of lives lost to opioids has more than quadrupled. Though opioids have taken up a lot of our collective attention during the first part of the twenty-first century, it would be a mistake to ignore another addictive substances that have had a negative impact on people’s lives: alcohol.

A new report released from the California Health Care Foundation looked at substance use disorders in California. It examined the impact of alcohol, opioid and other substance use over time. Although this particular report was specific to California, the figures are a fair representation for situations in Arizona and nationwide as well.

Key Findings from Substance Abuse Report

The report, entitled “Substance Use in California: A Look at Addiction and Treatment,” has several key findings, including:

• Alcohol use disorder was the most common type of substance use disorder among California residents. Approximately six percent of Californians met the criteria for alcohol dependence. Three percent of state residents met the criteria for dependence on illicit drugs.

• Experimenting with drugs and alcohol is likely to start during the adolescent years. By the time they reach Grade 11, over half of students in California have tried alcohol and close to 40 percent have tried marijuana.

• Young adults (aged 18-25) were most likely to develop substance use disorders, with the likelihood close to twice the state average.

• The number of Emergency Department visits related to heroin in California has tripled during the years between 2006-2017.

• Alcohol was responsible for more nonfatal Emergency Department visits in California than all other drug diagnoses combined.

Substance Abuse Disorders Treatable

Substance use disorders, including alcohol use disorder, can be treated and managed. Like other chronic illnesses, the risk of relapse is a real and ongoing one. Behavioral therapy helps people with substance use disorders change unhealthy coping mechanisms for new ways of dealing with destructive behaviors. Medications can be used to control cravings for opioids and alcohol and reduce the physical reward a user experiences when they are ingested.

Naltrexone is among the most common medications, which is used in many different forms. Vivitrol is an monthly injectable version of naltrexone that is often used to help fight cravings.

opioid epidemic

Addiction Expert Explains Three Main Groups of Opioid Epidemic

For the average person reading news stories or listening to the situation being discussed on the air, it seems as though the situation is mainly about young people who have moved from a prescription opioid dependency to a heroin addiction and that fentanyl is causing many of the overdose deaths. Popular news stories imply that efforts to stop people from becoming addicted to prescription drugs have not helped, but only made the issue worse.

This is one part of the opioid crisis but it isn’t the full story. As Andrew Kolodny, the co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University Heller School for Social Policy and Management pointed out, there are three opioid epidemics impacting North America.

The Three Opioid Epidemics in North America

1. Longtime Addicts

This, according to Kolodny, is the smallest group. Most of them are between the ages of 50-70 and started using heroin in the 1970s and 1980s. They lost a number of their friends to addiction. Fentanyl is responsible for killing off people in this group, due to the heroin supply being “laced” with this powerful pain reliever.

2. Young Rural and Suburban Users

The second group is the middle one, and is between 20-40 years of age. This is the group that gets most of the press coverage. They are people who are being found dead of an overdose, often with needles still in stuck in their arm.

In many instances, the road to addiction starts out with prescription opioids. The person may have started taking medications prescribed for someone else. They may have originally been prescribed the pain medication, but started using it more often than as directed. When their supply ran out, they turned to buying pills on the street.

At some point the cravings for pills increased. The cost was high and heroin could satisfy the cravings at a cheaper price. Switching from pills to heroin wasn’t anything new, according to Kolodny. Again, when dealers started adding fentanyl to their heroin supply around 2011 because it was a cheap filler, the number of overdose victims skyrocketed.

3. Middle-Aged and Senior Adults

The largest group, which has remained mostly under the popular press’ radar, is made up of people in their mid-40s through to their 80s. Their deaths due to opioid abuse are under-reported.

People in this age group may have been taking pain medications prescribed by their primary care doctors for several years. When they pass away from heart disease or another cause, no one wants to think of their long-term opioid use as being a contributing factor. Families also don’t think to ask whether their loved one may not have been using their opioid medication appropriately, whether there was an interaction with other medications (over the counter or herbal supplements included). They wouldn’t ask whether alcohol use and opioids may have been an issue.

The fact there are three sub-groups among this epidemic is why the number of overdose deaths have continued to rise. This isn’t a typical substance abuse problem, as the number of lives lost have actually reduced the average life expectancy in America.

To solve this problem Kolodny suggests investing money in building a new treatment system at an estimated cost of $60 billion. Although there are a ton of addiction programs doing great things, the system as a whole isn’t slowing the number of deaths, so more must be done.

Opioid Epidemic

Fentanyl’s Role in Opioid Epidemic

Study Confirms Fentanyl’s Role in Opioid Epidemic

The fentanyl epidemic in the United States is growing by the day, but because it is a relatively new additive, there is little research to compare the current situation with history. However, a recent study conducted by researchers at Boonshoft School of Medicine Center for Interventions, Treatment, and Addictions Research (CITAR) at Wright State University provides more concrete evidence about the fentanyl problem in this country. This is important because in order to reduce the number of people who ingest this powerful drug, there needs to be evidence of its growth and education about what fentanyl is and how to avoid its use.

What is Fentanyl and Why is it So Dangerous?

Fentanyl is a pharmaceutical drug that is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Most commonly, the drug is prescribed to cancer patients, but is also given in hospital settings to combat major pain issues. Regarding abuse, fentanyl has gained popularity with drug dealers because of increased potency when it is combined with heroin. Due to inadequate testing procedures, many experts believe that a greater number of overdose fatalities involved fentanyl than previously reported.

Heroin dealers are now mixing fentanyl into the supply in order to create a stronger, more intense high and to increase profits. But, because of this new combination, more addicts are suffering from fatal overdoses. Other studies have shown that most opioid users are not aware that they are ingesting fentanyl, and actively try to stay away from the drug in an effort to avoid these types of overdoses. This goes against the suggestion that addicts will seek out fentanyl in order to get a stronger high. Further research has shown that many drug dealers are getting their hands on fentanyl not from legitimate hospitals or doctors, but from illegal labs that have mimicked the recipe.

“The findings of our study highlight the urgent need to include testing for fentanyl and fentanyl analogs as a part of standard toxicology panels for biological specimens used by substance abuse treatment centers, criminal justice institutions and medical providers. Communities also need to assure that sufficient supplies of naloxone doses are provided to first responders and distributed through community overdose prevention programs to mitigate the effects of opioid overdoses,” explained lead author of the study, Raminta Daniulaityte.

Long-Term Impact of Fentanyl 

While there are still more long-term studies that need to be conducted on the fentanyl problem, this is a step forward for medical professionals who are looking to educate addicts and the public on the dangers and prevalence of the drug.

Fentanyl More Prevalent in Drug Supply than Previously Suspected

fentanylRecent news that opioid-related overdose deaths rose again keeps the alarm sounding that more has to be done to help save lives. One of the biggest contributors to these fatalities has been the addition of fentanyl.

Fentanyl is an extremely powerful synthetic opioid that is usually reserved for treating chronic and extreme pain, such as in cancer patients and after major surgeries. However, drug manufacturers and distributors have discovered that they can add it to other drugs to increase potency while making their supply last longer.

“What we see across the country is the drug cartels moving away from heroin and moving toward these opioids they’re going to produce themselves. People think they’re buying one thing and they’re actually buying another. The stuff they’re selling is so powerful. Some of the stuff we’re seeing produced is 50 times more potent than heroin, as if heroin wasn’t bad enough,” said Van Ingram, executive director of Kentucky’s Office of Drug Control Policy.

What makes fentanyl-laced heroin so dangerous is that users usually have no idea that they are taking such powerful opioids and so they use the same quantity as they normally would. However, instead of getting the same result, they are ingesting a deadly amount and never make it long enough to receive a dose of naloxone to combat the overdose.

Recently, a safe injection facility in Vancouver, Canada implemented a testing procedure so users could test their drugs for the presence of fentanyl. Their report was shocking, as over 1,000 tests they found an extremely high percentage of the drugs contained fentanyl. This included over 80% of the heroin and even 80% of the methamphetamine and 40% of the cocaine.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has also released reports warning of the increasing presence of fentanyl in street drugs. Since users have no way of knowing what is really in the drugs they’re getting nor how potent they are, there really are only a few viable long-term options to fixing this problem. There has to be a stronger effort to get people into effective treatment programs and there has to be more focus on providing better prevention programs for people of all ages to stop addiction before it starts.

Opioids and Cocaine Make for a Dangerous Combination

Opioids and CocaineThere was a time when cocaine use was sweeping across the country. The drug took inner cities by storm in the eighties and nineties and claimed many lives in the process. Then, cocaine use generally went down after prescription painkillers and heroin became more popular.

Now experts have noticed that more people are dying from drug overdoses involving cocaine than in subsequent years. In an effort to isolate the reasons why this may be occurring, researchers investigated the most recent string of overdose deaths . They found that it is much more common to mix cocaine with opioids than previously thought. This deadly combination has been identified as the reason for the surging fatalities.

“Opioids, primarily heroin and synthetic opioids, have been driving the recent increase in cocaine-related overdose deaths. This corresponds to the growing supply and use of heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl [a synthetic opioid] in the United States,” explained the researchers.

It was discovered that cocaine and opioid overdoses increased between 2006 and 2015, despite the number of cocaine users declining over that same period of time. This indicates that they are more like additional opioid deaths who also used cocaine, rather than the other way around, as there has also been a long upward trend of poly-drug users. Mixing multiple substances in such a fashion makes overdoses more likely to happen as well.

There have also been reports of cocaine users unknowingly ingesting synthetic opioids that were added to the powder. “In the absence of recent, regular opioid use, someone using cocaine and fentanyl (knowingly or unknowingly) would be highly susceptible to opioid-induced respiratory depression and subsequent overdose,” the authors wrote.

In a day where drug overdose deaths continue to rise, the threat for every single user becomes a very real possibility. There are too many things that can go wrong and synthetic drug additives for any user to really know what they are consuming. If you have a loved one who is addicted to drugs, contact us today to learn more about successful intervention and treatment options.

Carfentanil Latest Synthetic Opioid to Hit North American Cities

Authorities have issued warnings about the effects of carfentanil, a potent synthetic opioid. It has similar properties to heroin and has been used as an elephant tranquilizer. Recently, though, carfentanil has made headlines due to its deadly consequences.

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a warning to the public about the safety risks of carfentantil in September. It is 100 times more potent than fentanyl, which a drug that is 50 times more potent than heroin. Carfentanil is 10,000 times more potent than morphine.

The lethal dose for this drug in humans is unknown. Carfentanil is the most deadly opiate among the illicit street drugs, and taking a few granules the size table salt can be enough to prove fatal.

Illicit Drug Users Don’t Know they are Taking Carfentanil

Carfentanil is showing up in a number of communities in the United States and Canada, where it has been linked to several overdose incidents as well as deaths. Overdose victims believe that they are taking heroin and don’t realize that the drug they are buying has been laced with carfentanil, fentanyl or another harmful synthetic.

The issue of street drugs having other substances added to them is nothing new. There have been many reports over the years of users coming to harm due to ingesting something they didn’t realize had been added to the drugs they were buying.

Signs of Exposure to Carfentanil

The symptoms of exposure to carfentanil include the following:

  • Drowsiness
  • Disorientation
  • Sedation
  • Clammy skin
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Respiratory arrest

These symptoms usually start within a few minutes of exposure to the drug and require immediate medical attention. Carfentanil, like other fentanyl-type drugs have the potential to work very quickly.

Naxolone is an antidote for opioid overdose, and can be administered for carfentanil exposure. If this option is available, administer a dose immediately while waiting for help to arrive. Continue to administer an additional dose every two or three minutes until the affected person is able to breathe on their own for at least 15 minutes or until emergency services arrives.

How the Drug Climate is Changing

opioidsSeveral years ago stories of mass overdoses and tainted heroin would have shocked the nation. Nowadays, these stories are becoming too commonplace. While laws and regulations are making prescription narcotics more difficult to obtain, and the demand for potent drugs is increasing, so drug dealers are improvising and often making a very dangerous situation much worse.

Opioids mixed with fentanyl have become the newest trend among illicit drugs, and the deadly combination has been claiming record numbers of lives. Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that is generally only administered in hospitals to patients with severe pain. Drug manufacturers have begun to include Fentanyl in batches of heroin and even batches of pressed pills. Addicts who are not expecting such a lethal drug often maintain their usual level of use, thinking it is the same potentcy. This causes mass overdoses in an area where the local dealers continue to include fentanyl in their heroin batches.

Many prescription painkiller addicts will argue that pills are safer than heroin. The idea that you always know what you’re taking and how much is no longer true. Drug dealers have changed the landscape of painkillers obtained on the street as well. In order to meet the demands of prescription drug addicts, dealers now have the ability to make their own “pills” putting in whatever ingredients they can get their hands on. Addicts begin unknowingly consuming anything that their dealer sells them. This can, and has, caused deaths throughout the country.

“Anyone can press a pill these days. It’s not very expensive or difficult. Even if you look it up, and it matches something you saw online, it could still literally be anything,” explains Lori Kufner, who works at the harm reduction organization Trip! Project.

Law enforcement and health officials are warning the public that street drugs are becoming more potent and unpredictable. Experts urge addicts to seek help before they fall victim to a “hot batch.” However, some addicts are not only undeterred, but are even seeking out the combination as a way to get stronger drugs. As a heroin addict becomes more entrenched in their addiction they oftentimes need more and more of the drug to feel the same kind of high. The promise of an extra powerful batch of heroin can entice addicts to buy more and use more.

Given that the drug scene is constantly changing – and getting worse by most accounts, there has to be more diligence on the part of friends and families to get help for their loved ones. The statement that their next hit could be their last has never been more true than it is today.

Contact Desert Cove now to find out how our addiction treatment program can help.