In 2015 there were 52,404 drug related overdoses in the United States says the American Society of Addiction Medicine. And the death toll has only risen since. Opioid dependence must be given credit for the rise in the U.S drug related overdose death statistics, as there are now estimated over two million Americans that have a problem with opioids. As you can see in the chart above, the leading cause of death in American’s under 50 are drug affiliated overdoses. This too is because of the outrageous inrush of fentanyl and drugs alike into the market. In an article by Nadia Kounang, she wrote “Another report earlier this week in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that the number of drug overdoses involving opioids between 2008-2014 was likely underestimated by 24%. When looking at overdose deaths involving heroin, the percent of overdose deaths were underestimated by 22%. These differences are likely attributed to the growing use of synthetic opioids like street fentanyl that medical examiners and health departments may not have included initially on death certificates. Experts have previously said the reported numbers of deaths were underestimated, but this is the first study to quantify just how much.” This means that our numbers calculated are higher than we estimate, and the fentanyl epidemic is gaining momentum.
A shocking study, conducted by the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that “Opioids were involved in 33,091 deaths in 2015, and opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999.” Data also shines the light on increases of drug related deaths on the East Coast. In states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Maine. In Florida between 2003 and 2009 drug overdoses surged 61 percent, and are still extremely high today. Although there are a few states with increasingly high numbers with no verbalized solution to the antidote, there is one state taking a stand. In May of 2017, Ohio State filed a lawsuit attacking five different drug companies. In the New York Times article they said “The State of Ohio filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the pharmaceutical industry over the opioid epidemic, accusing several drug companies of conducting marketing campaigns that misled doctors and patients about the danger of addiction and overdose.” Such a matter should be brought forward, and exposed from more states, more frequently.
We need to keep in mind, the people suffering through this crisis. Stephen Junior, a New Jersey resident and frequent drug user said ” It started out as something fun. My best friend moved into my house and he used before I did. We were bored one night, and he offered. I wish I never said yes.” Stephen is a Staten Island native and moved to New Jersey in his late teens. As he said it was hard to make friends, “you work with what you got.” Lone be told the only friends he was able to make were what you call the “wrong crowd.” Stephen finished high school and wanted to get a good job in construction, possibly a Union job in New York City. But unfortunately his “something fun” turned into an addiction that still haunts him over 15 years later. Unable to pursue his dreams in NYC, he is now working odd jobs to make ends meet and to feed his habit. Stephen said he has resorted to heroin because “it’s just cheaper.” His story is like so many others, and the statistics prove it.
Stephen is from Ocean County, New Jersey where an article states “Ocean County has the largest number of people seeking treatment for heroin or opiate abuse – 3,688 people.” And it’s not just new Jersey having this problem, the nation is under attack. In Ohio the coroner’s office is actually running out of space to pile the bodies due to the influx of drug overdoses. Now, we can’t give all the credit to opioids, because there is a highly dangerous perpetrator weaving itself into the illegal drug industry as we speak. The perp, fentanyl. Although this perp isn’t new to the game, as you can see in an article written in 1980, it was lurking around then too, last year fentanyl killed 900 people in NJ alone. In a piece done by Michael Rass it stated “Fentanyl is not only more potent than heroin, it is also far cheaper. A kilogram of heroin sells for $ 75,000 to 80,000 on the streets of New Orleans, says Rouse, while the same amount of fentanyl is only $ 5,000.”
The most deadly counterparts of fentanyl is carfentanil, also used as an elephant tranquilizer, and said to be 5,000 times more potent than heroin. To make things even more frightening, an article on Recovery First read “Carfentanil is a powerful derivative of fentanyl, a synthetic narcotic analgesic produced from morphine. While fentanyl is about 100 times more powerful than morphine, carfentanil is 100 times more potent than fentanyl, meaning it is 10,000 times more potent than morphine. This drug is not approved for use in humans in any capacity, and it is typically found in veterinary medicine to sedate large animals, primarily elephants. In fact, the drug is so powerful that when veterinarians handle carfentanil, they use protective gear so they don’t breathe it in or absorb it through their skin.” This means that the already lethal heroin epidemic, has just been amplified with fentanyl. What is even more horrifying is not that it’s mostly used on the streets as heroin and imitation opioids, because that it obvious, but it has recently been found to contribute to cocaine-related overdoses. Meaning even the “recreational” cocaine-users are susceptible to overdose as well. Creating more panic within the general public. Fentanyl and carfentanil overdoses are so severe that First Responders around the country are reporting that it takes multiple doses of naloxon, also known as the Narcan.
An estimated two million Americans are dependent on opioids, with an added 95 million users of prescribed painkillers. Our nation needs to come together to understand the severity and complexity of substance-use disorders. We need to articulate the problems plaguing America, and all of them. The opioid epidemic is getting more attention as the numbers rise, but with the dangerous fentanyl on the illegal market, and understanding of both matters must be voiced.