The United States is facing a deadly fentanyl crisis. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. It is a schedule II prescription drug with a high potential for abuse and can lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. Fentanyl is typically used to treat severe pain, such as that associated with cancer. However, the drug is also being increasingly misused for its euphoric effects and is often a popular choice for drug dealers since it is cheap and easy to manufacture.
The drug is typically used to treat patients who are in severe pain or those who have undergone surgery. It can be prescribed in various forms, including a patch, lozenge, lollipop, and nasal spray.
The production of street fentanyl is relatively simple and does not require a large amount of equipment or money. Since it is produced in clandestine kitchens, labs are often set up in private homes or rented apartments. Moreover, the drug is typically made using one of two methods. The first involves mixing the powdered form of fentanyl with other chemicals to create a liquid solution that can be injected. The second method involves cooking the fentanyl powder with other chemicals to create a paste that can be smoked.
Not an Expensive Drug
The cost of fentanyl varies depending on the source. Black-market fentanyl can cost as little as $3 per gram, while the legal prescription version can cost up to $30 per gram. Much of the fentanyl that is smuggled through Arizona is often transhipped, meaning it is imported from China, taken to Mexico, further broken down and processed, and then transported to the border. This has led to a surge in fentanyl seizures at the border.
In Arizona, for example, the number of fentanyl seizures increased from 14 in 2014 to 2,238 in 2018. The majority of these seizures were made by the Tucson field office, which covers sections of the Arizona-Mexico border in Southern Arizona. The increase in seizures is likely due to both an increase in production and an increase in smuggling attempts. With more fentanyl available, smugglers are likely trying to bring larger quantities into the country.
Border officials are working to stop this flow of illegal drugs, but it is a difficult task since fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs or concealed in other materials, making it hard to detect. Recent seizures that have been documented show how smugglers and dealers disguise the pills to look like legitimate prescription medications, including matching the color, shape, and sizes of the pills.
Highly Addictive Drug
Because fentanyl is relatively easy to manufacture and because it is very potent, it has a high potential for abuse and can lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. Fentanyl is typically used to treat pain that is severe enough that other pain medications, such as morphine, do not work. It is also used in cancer patients to manage breakthrough pain that occurs despite the use of other opioids.
Fentanyl works by binding to the body’s opioid receptors, which are found in the brain and spinal cord. These receptors are part of the body’s natural pain-relief system. When fentanyl binds to these receptors, it increases levels of dopamine in the brain, which produce feelings of pleasure and relaxation. This increase in dopamine can lead to feelings of euphoria, which can be addictive.
So what can be done to get people off fentanyl?
Education is key. People need to be aware of the dangers of fentanyl and other drugs. They need to know how to spot the signs of an overdose and what to do if someone they know is using fentanyl. Signs of a fentanyl overdose include shallow breathing, confusion, loss of consciousness, and slow heart rate. If you see someone exhibiting these signs, it is important to call 911 immediately as an overdose can be fatal.
Some signs of a fentanyl user are slurred speech and constricted pupils. They may also be sweating or have a rapid heartbeat. If you see any of these signs, it's important to talk to the person and try to get them help. Fentanyl addiction is a serious problem and it can be difficult to overcome without professional help.
There are many treatments for fentanyl addiction. Some of these treatments include detoxification, medication-assisted treatment, behavioral therapy, and 12-step programs.
Detoxification is the first step in treating fentanyl addiction. This process helps to rid the body of the drug and can be done either at home or in a hospital setting. The medication-assisted treatment uses medication to help ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Behavioral therapy helps patients change their behaviors and thoughts related to drug use. 12-step programs provide support and guidance for recovering addicts.
In Arizona, like in other states, this growing crisis has caused public agencies to respond to this public health emergency. Non-profit organizations like talknowaz.com are helping raise awareness and giving people the tools they need to talk about the drug with knowledge and directing people to help.
Since it does start with education and knowing the impacts of this drug and the dangers involved with its use, it is important to talk with your child early about never taking pills not prescribed to them. Also, be aware of your child's behavior and activities. Especially, their online activities and texting habits since accessing drugs have become easier using social media and texting apps. Finally, get the facts on fentanyl and the dangers of its use. Let your child, loved ones and really everyone know about how deadly and dangerous this drug is.
We can all make a dent in this crisis, and I hope you do your part in helping educate others and perhaps, help save a life.