In October of 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) joined together to investigate the recent increase in fentanyl-related deaths in multiples states across the U.S. Also in their efforts, the CDC and DEA are hoping to alert affected audiences, provide recommendations for improving detection and encourage states to expand access to the emergency overdose drug Naloxone, the CDC Health Advisory said.
Interestingly, although pharmaceutical fentanyl is identified as being misused, the main cases of fentanyl-related deaths are linked to illicit manufactured fentanyl and other fentanyl analogs, the CDC Health Advisory identified.
Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid, which is 50 to 100 more powerful than morphine, the Guardian article said. It was introduced into medical practice as an intravenous anesthetic under the trade name of Sublimaze in the 1960s, the DEA said. As chemical compounds for fentanyl are being outlawed to help combat the production in countries like China, as a counter, chemists creating the synthetic fentanyl find alterations that perform as similar analogues, The Guardian article said.
The New York Times reported the, “Heroin Epidemic Is Yielding to a Deadlier Cousin: Fentanyl”. Amid the opioid epidemic in the United States, to see a headline that reads there is a deadlier cousin taking lives, is shock provoking and frightening.
“Fentanyl represents the latest wave of a rolling drug epidemic that has been fueled by prescription painkillers, as addicts continue to seek higher highs and cheaper fixes,” The New York Times said.
Fentanyl as a pharmaceutical is typically used to treat patients with severe pain. Fentanyl theft of this kind normally occurs via pharmacy theft, fraudulent prescriptions and illicit distribution by patients or physicians and pharmacists. There have also been reports that this synthetic drug has been stolen from long term care facilities such as nursing homes.
Some fentanyl street names are, apache, dance fever, TNT, and crush, the Addiction website said.
The dangers of this drug are very apparent. Fentanyl can serve as a direct substitute for opioid dependent individuals, such as those who are dependent on prescription drugs and heroin. Fentanyl is highly dangerous because it is much more potent and can thus lead to respiratory depression and even death.
To add to this major threat, the shear saturation of synthetic opiates and other variations that are being smuggled into the U.S. has put the DEA in a state of playing catch up in its regulatory process. More often than not, U.S. buyers of these synthetic opiates do not have any idea what they are purchasing, The Guardian article said.
The threat of synthetic opiates is very strong, but the steps to stop the progression and manufacturing is not so certain. The most important element to take away as a coalition is to monitor this highly potent and deadly drug in your communities, while also taking preventative measures to ensure it will not take hold in your community.
Visit the CDC website to learn more about this growing threat and steps you can take.