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Navigation: What is Fentanyl?, Fentanyl Abuse: What is It?, California’s Fentanyl Problem Getting Worse; Overdose Deaths Still Rising, How Many Drug Overdose Deaths Are Caused by Fentanyl?, Overdose Deaths Involving Cocaine, Overdose Deaths Involving Psychostimulants, Why is Fentanyl Abused?, How to Prevent Fentanyl Abuse in Your Home, What to Do if Someone is Overdosing on Fentanyl, Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is mainly used for pain management and anesthesia. However, it is significantly stronger than heroin and can be deadly even in small amounts. In fact, Fentanyl is said to be the number one cause of death for Americans age 18 to 45.

This drug has been a growing concern in many parts of the US, including California. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl, often mixed with other drugs or sold as counterfeit prescription pills, has contributed to a rise in overdose deaths across the country.

Unfortunately, California’s Fentanyl problem is only getting worse. Although the state has allocated more than $1 billion in recent years in its fight against opioid use disorder, overdose data indicates that opioid related deaths are still on the rise.

Most of its money has gone towards the distribution of Fentanyl test strips as well as Naloxone, which is a drug that can reverse the effects of overdose and prevent overdose deaths. California has also been delivering medical care to homeless people.

The state has even called on the National Guard to help find and stop drug traffickers. Despite all these efforts, opioid related overdoses are still increasing.

It’s clear that there is no single solution to the opioid epidemic. Substance abuse disorders are complex conditions that require a multifaceted approach. Still, having a clear understanding of this condition can go a long way in the fight against drug abuse and addiction. Knowledge and awareness are some of the most important tools against the opioid epidemic in the long run.

In this article, we will discuss Fentanyl abuse, addiction treatment, and the current rise in overdose deaths in the state of California.

What is Fentanyl?

It is important to understand the drug that is causing significant problems not only in California but for the rest of the United States. This synthetic opioid drug is highly potent and is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and dependence.

Typically used as a painkiller, Fentanyl is considered to be one of the strongest opioids available and is approximately 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. This medication is usually given in cases where other prescription opioids were ineffective.

Fentanyl can be administered in various forms, including transdermal patches, lozenges, nasal sprays, injectable solutions, and tablets.

One of the major concerns associated with fentanyl is its illicit use and involvement in the opioid crisis. Illegally produced fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs such as heroin or cocaine or sold as counterfeit prescription pills, leading to a significant increase in overdose deaths. The potency of fentanyl makes it particularly dangerous, as even small amounts can be lethal.

Misuse or non-medical use of fentanyl can have severe consequences and can be life-threatening. This is why Fentanyl should only be used under the supervision of a healthcare professional and according to prescribed guidelines.

If you have any concerns about fentanyl or its use, it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional or pharmacist.

Fentanyl Abuse: What is It?

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), fentanyl abuse refers to the illicit use, misuse, or non-medical use of the synthetic opioid drug called fentanyl. There are many ways for abuse to occur.

First is through the illicit production and distribution of the drug. Fentanyl can be produced in clandestine laboratories, often overseas, and smuggled into the United States and other countries. It is frequently mixed with other drugs or sold as counterfeit prescription medications, such as counterfeit oxycodone tablets.

Fentanyl can also be diverted from legitimate medical channels. It can be stolen from hospitals or pharmacies, or obtained through fraudulent prescriptions.

Some people obtain Fentanyl through illicit means and use it without a legitimate medical need. They may use it for its euphoric effects or to enhance the effects of other drugs. But when people take these drugs that have heroin or cocaine mixed in without their knowledge, the likelihood of a fatal overdose increases.

In some cases, people misuse their medication or accidentally take more than they are supposed to.

Fentanyl abuse poses significant risks to individuals and communities due to its potency and potential for overdose. The DEA and other law enforcement agencies work to combat the illicit production, distribution, and abuse of fentanyl to protect public health and safety.

California’s Fentanyl Problem Getting Worse; Overdose Deaths Still Rising

Due to the prevalence of Fentanyl, overdose involving opioids now kill more than twice as many people as car accidents and more than four times as many as homicides. In fact, there are more drug overdose deaths than fatal cases of lung cancer or diabetes, according to the Sacramento consulting group California Health Policy Strategies.

According to California’s overdose surveillance dashboard, most opioid overdose deaths involve Fentanyl.

Meanwhile, provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows a small annual increase in overdose deaths in California to almost 12,000. Overdose deaths across the US once again topped 100,000.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced more funding for the state to produce its own Naloxone, which can reverse overdoses and potentially save lives.

It goes without saying that substance use disorder is still a huge problem and community leaders must do their part in preventing fatal overdoses within their neighborhoods. It’s clear that there is no easy solution to this crisis. However, we can all do our part in protecting your communities through education and fighting the stigma surrounding addiction treatment.

How Many Drug Overdose Deaths Are Caused by Fentanyl?

According to data from the CDC, in 2019, fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were involved in approximately 50% of all opioid-related overdose deaths in the country. This includes all forms of Fentanyl such as pharmaceutical Fentanyl, non-pharmaceutical Fentanyl analogs, and even illicitly manufactured Fentanyl. All forms of Fentanyl can be abused and may contribute to the overall number of overdose deaths.

Overdose Deaths Involving Cocaine

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug that comes from the leaves of the coca plant, which is native to South America. Just like Fentanyl, it is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and limited medical use.

The drug works by increasing levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, in the brain.

Cocaine produces intense feelings of euphoria, increased energy, and heightened alertness. It can also cause a range of negative effects, including increased heart rate and blood pressure, dilated pupils, decreased appetite, insomnia, paranoia, and anxiety. The use of cocaine can lead to addiction, and long-term abuse can have serious health consequences, such as cardiovascular problems, respiratory issues, and neurological disorders.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), this stimulant drug was involved in approximately 16% of all drug overdose deaths in 2019,

Drug overdose deaths are influenced by various factors, including the availability and purity of drugs, patterns of drug use, and individual susceptibility to overdose.

Overdose Deaths Involving Psychostimulants

Psychostimulants are a class of drugs that stimulate the central nervous system (CNS) and increase brain activity. These substances have various effects on the brain and body, including increased alertness, wakefulness, attention, and energy levels. They are primarily used for medical purposes in treating certain conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and occasionally depression.

Psychostimulants with abuse potential include both illicit drugs, such as ecstasy and methamphetamine, as well as prescription stimulants. Psychostimulants have the potential for misuse and abuse due to their stimulating effects.

Some people may use them recreationally to enhance cognitive performance or for their euphoric effects. However, non-medical use of psychostimulants can lead to addiction, dependence, and various health risks.

Psychostimulant abuse can also contribute to the growing number of drug overdose deaths. In recent years, there has been an increase in the use of psychostimulants, particularly methamphetamine.

Overdose deaths from psychostimulants have been increasing since 2010. In 2019, over 16,000 Americans died from an overdose involving psychostimulants. In fact, almost 23% of all drug overdose deaths that year involved psychostimulants.

Why is Fentanyl Abused?

Fentanyl is a highly potent synthetic opioid that is prescribed by doctors to manage severe pain, typically in cases of chronic pain or during surgical procedures. However, it is also a drug that is commonly abused. There are several reasons why fentanyl is abused:

Potency: Fentanyl is significantly more potent than other opioids, such as morphine or heroin. Even small doses can produce intense euphoria and pain relief. This potency makes it attractive to people seeking a powerful and immediate high.

Availability: Fentanyl has been illegally manufactured and sold on the black market. It can be obtained through illicit means, such as drug trafficking, and mixed with other drugs like heroin or cocaine to increase their potency. This has contributed to the rise in fentanyl-related overdoses in recent years.

Economic factors: Fentanyl is relatively inexpensive to produce, which makes it appealing to drug manufacturers. It can be produced in clandestine laboratories with readily available precursors. The affordability of fentanyl makes it an attractive option for those seeking opioids, whether for personal use or distribution.

Tolerance and dependence: Prolonged use of fentanyl can lead to tolerance, meaning higher doses are needed to achieve the same effects. This can quickly escalate and result in physical and psychological dependence. Some people may continue to abuse fentanyl to stave off withdrawal symptoms and maintain the desired effects.

Misinformation: Some individuals may inadvertently abuse fentanyl due to misinformation or improper use. For example, they may acquire fentanyl through illegal sources without realizing its potency or the risks involved. The lack of awareness about the dangers associated with fentanyl can lead to unintentional misuse.

Fentanyl’s potency makes it particularly lethal, as even small amounts can cause respiratory depression and lead to fatal consequences. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, it is important to seek help from medical professionals or addiction specialists.

How to Prevent Fentanyl Abuse in Your Home

The battle against the opioid epidemic is not easy, and we can expect a lot more casualties in the future as we try to find the best strategies that will protect our communities and prevent overdose deaths. However, the fight for sobriety begins at home.

Preventing fentanyl abuse in your home requires a proactive approach to ensure the safety of yourself and your family members.

First you need to educate your family about the dangers of substance abuse. Talk openly with your family members, especially teenagers and young adults, about the dangers of fentanyl abuse. Explain its potency, addictive nature, and potential fatal consequences. Encourage open communication and address any concerns or questions they may have.

Education is the best way to fight stigma. Right now, the stigma surrounding addiction remains one of the biggest obstacles towards proper treatment. People are afraid that they might get judged for their condition. So instead of seeking help, they just continue to suffer. Open communication about addiction and rehab is important.

Proper education will also help you recognize the signs of abuse. Stay vigilant and watch for signs of fentanyl abuse in your loved ones. These may include behavioral changes, mood swings, secrecy, financial problems, frequent doctor visits, or unexplained physical symptoms.

If you have legitimate fentanyl prescriptions at home, make sure they are stored securely in a locked cabinet or container, out of reach of unauthorized individuals, including children and visitors.

Limit access to your medications by keeping them in a locked area, especially if you have people in your home who may be at a higher risk of substance abuse. This includes family members with a history of addiction or those who may have easy access to your medications.

Keep track of your prescription medications by regularly checking the quantities and ensuring they match the prescribed amounts. Be aware of any missing pills or discrepancies. If you suspect someone may be tampering with or diverting medications, take appropriate action.

Dispose of unused or expired medications properly. Many communities have medication disposal programs or take-back events where you can safely dispose of these medications. Flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash can contaminate the environment and pose risks.

If you or someone in your family is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, do not hesitate to reach out to healthcare professionals, addiction counselors, or support groups in your area. They can provide guidance, support, and appropriate treatment options.

Remember, prevention is key, but it’s also crucial to approach the issue with empathy, understanding, and support.

What to Do if Someone is Overdosing on Fentanyl

If you believe someone is overdosing on fentanyl, it is important to act quickly and seek immediate medical help. Here are the steps you should take:

Call emergency services: Dial the emergency number in your country, such as 911 in the United States or 112 in many European countries, to request immediate medical assistance. Provide clear information about the situation, including the suspicion of a fentanyl overdose.

Stay with the person: Ensure that you stay with the individual who is experiencing the overdose. Monitor their vital signs and be prepared to provide any necessary information to medical professionals when they arrive.

Administer naloxone if available: Naloxone is an opioid overdose-reversing medication that can be administered to temporarily reverse the effects of a fentanyl overdose. If you have access to naloxone and are trained to use it, follow the instructions provided with the medication. Naloxone is often available as a nasal spray or injectable form.

Do not leave the person alone: It’s crucial to keep the person conscious and breathing until medical professionals arrive. If they become unconscious and stop breathing, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if you are trained to do so.

Provide information to medical professionals: When emergency responders arrive, inform them about the situation, any known substance involved (such as fentanyl), and any actions you have taken, including the administration of naloxone if applicable.

Fentanyl is a potent opioid, and overdoses can be life-threatening. Prompt medical attention is crucial in such cases, so do not hesitate to call for professional help immediately.

Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl addiction refers to a condition in which an individual becomes dependent on and develops a compulsive craving for fentanyl.

The treatment for fentanyl addiction typically involves a combination of medical interventions, counseling, and support systems. It’s more than just overdose and injury prevention.

While the exact components of treatment may vary from one rehab to another, they will generally include a medical detox process and therapeutic approaches.

Fentanyl addiction often requires a supervised medical detoxification process. During this phase, the individual is gradually weaned off the drug while managing their withdrawal symptoms. Medical professionals may use medications to keep the patient safe and alleviate their discomfort. During detox, the patient’s body will slowly adapt to being drug-free.

Medication-assisted treatment or MAT is a treatment approach that involves the use of medications, such as buprenorphine or methadone, to help individuals reduce cravings and manage withdrawal symptoms.

These medications can help stabilize brain chemistry and facilitate the recovery process. They are usually combined with counseling and behavioral therapies.

It’s not enough to help the body escape the clutches of the substance use disorder. It is also important to address the addictive behaviors and triggers that led to addiction.

Different forms of counseling and therapy are essential for addressing the psychological and emotional aspects of addiction. These therapies may include: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, contingency management, individual and group therapy, and family therapy.

Participating in support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA), can also be beneficial. These groups provide a sense of community and understanding from individuals who have experienced or are experiencing similar struggles. They offer ongoing support, encouragement, and accountability.

Finally, a comprehensive treatment plan should include an aftercare strategy. Aftercare is crucial for maintaining sobriety and preventing relapse once the patient leaves rehab. This may involve ongoing therapy, continued support group attendance, and regular check-ins with healthcare providers.

Each individual’s journey to recovery is unique, and so the best treatment plans are often tailored to meet their specific needs. Look for a rehab near you today to learn more about treatment options for people with Fentanyl addiction.


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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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