Young people in San Diego County, like around the US, have a problem with fentanyl. They’re not using it on purpose but instead are experimenting with drugs that somehow contain it. This is one reason younger people, including teenagers, are now dying at record numbers from overdose deaths.
Fentanyl is a drug typically used for people in severe pain, such as stage 4 cancer. It is also used as a sedative for surgeries. According to the CDC, the drug itself is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin.
And now America has a fentanyl problem – not large amounts of people addicted to it, but large amounts of people dying after accidentally using it.
Roneet Lev, an emergency room physician at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, California, told Bloomberg that most of the overdose deaths she’s seen in teens are accidental overdoses. One of her young patients, 14 years old, died from a fentanyl overdose.
“The problem is both supply and demand,” she said. “There’s already a lot of fentanyl coming into our market, and now we have a pandemic where people are isolated and not working, or not in school. These teenagers probably don’t have a substance use disorder, they’re experimenting, making a bad choice, and they end up dead.”
Many cities and nonprofits say that harm reduction is an integral part of tackling the opioid epidemic. After all, many of the young people who are dying don’t even mean to take fentanyl. They often believe they’re taking a pill such as Percocet, Adderall, Ecstacy, etc. It may be the first time they have ever taken a drug at all.
Many law enforcement agencies are trying to get the word out about counterfeit pills and the dangers of fentanyl.
Some nonprofits offer fentanyl testing strips as a harm reduction measure that can test drugs for the presence of fentanyl. Then, the user can decide if they want to take it or flush it. Narcan, an overdose reversal drug, is also available to people who use opioids and other concerned community members. Carrying this drug can help reverse fatal overdoses, but when it’s a drug like fentanyl, reversal may require multiple doses of Narcan.
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And as we wrap this year, may we know that Holidays for some means hopefully being able to let go of the heaviest burden of them all: addiction. With heroin at its all time high, both in availability and low cost, this once forgotten but now oversupplied drug is arresting the development of many of our youths in this country. No, not only a specific group, but all. It has been thought that it only affects those who have broken upbringings, but it is now understood that it is not a moral decision but a vulnerable target in one of the most frail moments in life. What begins as playing with pharmaceuticals turns into snorting or smoking, and eventually the fear of the needle leaves as time goes by, making IV inevitable. Lets look to solutions, to prevention and to leaving the stigma and the fear. Heres to making a change in 2015, to speaking about it, and bringing more information and recovery stories to the table.