According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMSHA), in 2016, over 11 million Americans misused prescription opioids, nearly 1 million used heroin, and 2.1 million had an opioid use disorder due to prescription opioids or heroin.
One of the contributing factors to the worsening drug abuse epidemic is fentanyl. Street names for fentanyl or for fentanyl-laced heroin abound. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that fentanyl, a synthetic opioid analgesic is similar to morphine, but 50 to 100 times more potent.
While fentanyl is prescribed in hospitals for severe pain like in end-stage cancer, or breakthrough pain after an operation, illegal manufacturers created their own market for it. Fentanyl is often mixed with heroin and cocaine or sold as a substitute. Users may not realize how potent the drug is. They also may not realize the drug they just bought is laced with fentanyl. Both these circumstances put users at great risk for overdose and death. Fentanyl can be fatal because it can cause users to stop breathing.
Has compounded the drug epidemic because it is easier to transport by dealers, less expensive than heroin, and is so potent it can be sold in small quantities. People use fentanyl by swallowing, snorting, or by injection. Some put blotter paper in their mouths so the fentanyl can be absorbed through the mucous membrane.
Naloxone or Narcan:
As it’s commonly called, can be used as an antidote to overdoses if administered properly, and in time. Doctors can also prescribe naloxone for anyone using opioids and those who may be at risk for overdose. This is good news for saving lives. If you or a loved one is addicted and at risk, look into getting a prescription for naloxone. The main symptoms for fentanyl abuse include: euphoria, drowsiness, lethargy, mellowness change in behavior, swollen extremities, appetite and weight loss.
SAMSHA has an Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit. It contains: facts for community members, five essential steps for first responders, information for prescribers, safety advice for patients and family members, and information on recovering from an opioid overdose. Get the facts and help save lives.
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