For adults aged 18-45, fentanyl is the most common cause of death in the United States of America, according to new data from the CDC. The deaths outnumbered car wrecks, alcohol-related deaths (which also increased), and cancer. Fentanyl is here to stay, and it’s killing young people. Why is it the leading cause of death? What can people do to help prevent these deaths, individuals, or communities?
Fentanyl Is Often An Adulterant
Many people who overdose on fentanyl have no idea they are taking it. This may sound like an exaggeration, but it’s true. Fentanyl has been found as an adulterant on both the East and the West Coast. It’s been added to cocaine, meth, molly, and opioid pills sold as Oxy.
There has even been a case of fentanyl added to black-market marijuana in California.
It’s not clear if the drug dealers know the adulterant and its deadliness. They may add it here in the US when they press the pills. But many of the drugs that make it to the streets are brought from Mexico or sold online direct from pharmacies in China.
The Need for Fentanyl Harm Reduction
Because there is no way to solve the addiction epidemic overnight, many nonprofits in the addiction recovery field focus on saving lives. Harm reduction is a way to minimize the risks of death for drug users.
Fentanyl testing strips are one tool that more public health departments are starting to get behind. Drug users can test almost any drug by dissolving it in a solution. It will turn a specific color if the drug is tainted with fentanyl.
Carrying Naloxone and having it available in public-facing spaces such as clubs, restaurants, community centers can help save lives. Many states have made Naloxone over-the-counter, while some require training before they let people acquire it.
Helping People Get Sober
While harm reduction saves lives, recovery helps people learn to live them again, drug-free. If you or somebody you love struggles with addiction, help is available from SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.