Fentanyl is the top cause of overdoses in 2022 and may be responsible for over 80% of overdose deaths. While police have cracked down and increased penalties for fentanyl sales, it continues to flow over the border. Federal authorities believe that 2023 will continue to be marred by fentanyl and that dangerous analogs and other additives may contribute to the misery.
Fentanyl Use Prevention and Treatment Are Working
First, there is some good news on the horizon. More people than ever are accepting help via medical-assisted treatment. As a result, the overdose death rate is slowing, but overdoses have increased, especially among the younger demographics.
People know that there is help if they are addicted, but they may not understand the dangers of fentanyl or how to be safe from them. Measures such as education on fentanyl and counterfeit pills are essential measures that California has taken. In addition, Congress is considering making Naloxone, the lifesaving opioid-reversal drug, over the counter by 2024.
Drug Dealers Are Getting More Creative with Fentanyl and Opioids
While authorities in the US work to keep fentanyl off the streets, drug cartels and dealers are working on other creative ways to continue to poison the supply.
A dangerous form of fentanyl, called tranq dope, has been found in cities up and down the East Coast. The drug contains fentanyl and a drug called xylazine – a drug that can cause painful ulcers that are easily infected. Xylazine was first used as an animal tranquilizer, and there is no use for humans. Nevertheless, it has led to severe infections that have even caused amputations.
Drug dealers have added two synthetic opioids similar to fentanyl to drugs on the street. The DEA has found drugs such as isotonitazene and U-47700, which are incredibly potent and potentially deadly. Other drug users who take fentanyl have increasingly turned to “uppers” to offset the fatigue and other side effects of the drug. Taking these drugs one after the other can lead to an increase in heart attacks and strokes. These are often drugs sold as Oxy and other opioids.
Some drug dealers even add carfentanyl, a drug meant for large horses and elephants needing surgery, to their opioids to help attract new buyers.
As the law chases cartels and drugs down, drug dealers are already looking for the next big thing. They are intent on adding a supply of potent, deadly opioids to street drugs, whatever the cost, even when that cost is the lives of their clients.
The Fight Against Fentanyl Overdoses
In 2024, Congress plans to make sure that the opioid-reversal drug, Narcan, is finally available over the counter. But now, EMTs and other first responders are finding that the regular dose of Narcan sometimes can’t reverse a potent fentanyl overdose.
Drugs will continue to evolve, but a strategy of prevention and education can help prevent new generations from becoming new victims of the opioid epidemic.