Every 15 minutes at least one person dies of a drug overdose in this country. From April 2020 to April 2021 (the most recent data available) The Center for Disease Control estimates over 100,000 people died from overdoses. That number is up from 76,000 in 2020. Two-thirds of those deaths were from the synthetic opioid called Fentanyl. Teens and young adults are known to experiment with drugs and alcohol — it’s almost a right of passage. But now, they are unknowingly consuming a drug called Fentanyl and fentanyl overdoses are killing people by the thousands.which is killing people by the thousands.
According to CNN, adolescent overdose deaths in the United States more than doubled from 2010 to 2021, jumping from 518 to 1,146 deaths annually. The good news? Drug use has substantially decreased among teens. But when they experiment with drugs like Adderal, Xanax or Oxycodone from a dealer, they are likely taking Fentanyl instead. And that’s why Fentanyl overdoses are killing people by the thousands.
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine. It is used for medical purposes for patients in severe pain post-op.
But now it is being produced in labs in China and smuggled in through Mexico to the United States. Cartels distribute Fentanyl by the kilogram. One kilogram of fentanyl (approximately 2 pounds) has the potential to kill 500,000 people. Most drug users don’t know they are taking something mixed with Fentanyl so they take a normal dose and end up dying.
This year Florida has had more Fentanyl-related deaths than any other state. To help combat this, they are providing Harm Reduction services right at Fort Lauderdale Beach where many Spring Breakers go to party. They have a mobile unit on-site in case anyone overdoses from Fentanyl. Plus they are distributing kits with Narcan – a drug that can prevent a patient from overdosing if given early enough.
Fentanyl-Related Deaths Don’t Discriminate
Fentanyl-related deaths cross all races and socio-economic groups. In just the last few years we lost a lot of well to do, writers, musicians, and actors from fentanyl overdoses:
Preventing Fentanyl From Killing More People
In addition to the occasional user, opioid addicts are dying in droves from Fentanyl. In San Francisco, in 2021 there were twice as many Fentanyl overdose deaths as Covid deaths, most of whom were heroin addicts. Addicts use Fentanyl knowingly and unknowingly. The knowing group uses it because it is cheaper than heroin and a little goes a long way. Unknowing users don’t know that it is mixed in with either the pill they dead. We need to better educate occasional users as well as addicts about the high risk of Fentanyl overdoses.
One group that is doing a great job of advocating for those at risk is The National Harm Reduction Coalition, a non-profit organization solely committed to preventing overdoses. Instead of being judgemental or shaming users, they treat them with humanity. The Harm Reduction volunteers are there to help keep the addict alive. Some of the critical services they provide are:
- Narcan Distribution – a drug in nasal spray or injection form that reverses the effects of an overdose if administered during the actual overdose. Police and EMS workers now carry it on hand.
- Needle Exchanges – dirty needles can cause abscesses (serious bacterial infections) amongst other problems for the addict because they use the same needle over and over to save money. Needle exchanges allow the addicts to turn in their used needles for new ones.
- Distribution of Fentanyl test kits – so the user can test the levels of Fentanyl in the drugs he buys.
- Political Action – New Jersey just passed The Syringe Decrim Bill (S-3493/A-5458) which decriminalizes possession of syringes and allows for expungement of previous convictions. Treating addicts like criminals instead of treating them with dignity does nothing to stem the problem. It makes them self-isolate, which only perpetuates the addiction.
Let’s Fight to Keep the Influx of Fentanyl
While almost every young person experiments with drugs the consequences have never been higher. While 90% of adults will never get addicted in their lifetime, we treat the 10% who do like criminals. Instead of using punitive measures to curb the use of drugs, it should be treated like the mental health issue it is (like eating disorders). Our jails are filled with non-violent drug addicts who would be much better off getting therapy and medication instead of losing their rights as a citizen. Incarcerating an addict is like jailing a person who has diabetes without providing them with insulin. It is the absolute opposite approach to remediating their addiction.
Even today, with all of the science to the contrary, there is still a drug possession arrest happening in the US every 23 seconds. Some states (like New Jersey) have revised the statutes so simple possession is no longer a crime. While most people think decriminalization would increase usage the facts prove just the opposite:
- Millions of people would no longer be arrested, (re)incarcerated, deported, and burdened by criminal records
- It would free up law enforcement for more serious offenses
- Prioritize health and safety over punishment for drug users
- Stop the illegal importing of Fentanyl
Prevention of More Fentanyl Related Overdoses
As parents, we need to get the word out to our children about the lethal dangers of taking Fentanyl before it is too late. The teens think they’ll be safe because they are buying a prescription drug like Adderall, Oxycodone, or Xanax. Instead, they are buying a synthetic pill manufactured by Mexican Cartels. A 14-year-old in Connecticut took 1 pill (thinking it was Oxycodone) and it had enough Fentanyl in it to kill 4 people. He bought it off of Snapchat.
How about the 4 West Point cadets who went to Spring Break in Florida and overdosed on what they thought was Cocaine, but it contained Fentanyl? Two are currently on ventilators. What you can do to save your kid(s):
- Talk to your teenagers (as young as 12) about the risk factors inherent in buying street drugs or drugs off the internet
- Tell them what Fentanyl is, how it is likely mixed into whatever drug they are buying, and its effects on the human body
- Provide them with literature about the dangers of Fentanyl
I hope the urgency of this issue motivates you to stand up for drug users and addicts, recognize the disease for what it is, advocate to fund more resources for treatment, and most of all treat them with dignity.
If you or someone you know is addicted to drugs they can call the 24-hour National Help Hotline at 800 662-4357.
Ways to Get Involved
You can volunteer, donate money or help get the word out about Fentanyl through these 3 and many other organizations: