The past year has brought a record number of drug overdose deaths, causing researchers, medical experts, and health officials to scramble for answers. The social isolation and life challenges of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic restrictions appear to have partially driven this current wave of overdose rates along with the highly potent and abundant synthetic opioid fentanyl flooding the streets. Another alarming trend is the ever-growing overdose death rate in which drug users die with various substances in their systems. This new phenomenon is causing some experts to ditch the term “opioid epidemic” and opt for “addiction epidemic” to promote more inclusive language and bring awareness to the dangers of illicit street drugs laced with fentanyl.
Among the approximately 100,000 overdose deaths this year, there’s been a surge in those who had cocaine, methamphetamine, and other drugs in their systems, along with fentanyl. In more than half of these cases, it’s most likely that fentanyl was mixed with the other street drug, a worrisome recent practice that’s been observed from coast to coast. Because fentanyl is fully synthetic and relatively inexpensive to produce, it’s become very profitable for illicit drug manufacturers, and it’s also been easy to smuggle into the US through countries like Mexico and China.
Those who use non-opioid street drugs can find themselves obtaining doses laced with trace amounts of fentanyl, which is enough to cause an overdose. The danger comes from drug users not recognizing the symptoms of an opioid overdose, and because they believe they didn’t ingest any opioids, they may overlook or ignore the signs, causing fatalities. Still, experts are reluctant to confirm that some drug users aren’t intentionally obtaining fentanyl-laced drugs in a new interest in the drug, or worse, a covert opioid addiction among non-opioid drug users. It’s likely that no matter the case, somewhere down the drug supply chain, users are both using it knowingly and unknowingly, making the opioid crisis worse and causing accidental (unknowing) overdose deaths.
Though the opioid crisis has been ongoing for decades now, experts are now looking for possible solutions for the current ‘fentanyl problem” inflicting the US. The emergence of fentanyl test strips backed by federal funding sound promising, but fentanyl seems to be entering the greater drug supply at a deep distributor level, causing either intentional or accidental fentanyl contamination of other street drugs.
Despite these attitudes, some sources claim that a blend of opioids and methamphetamines is a deliberate drug of choice for some and that there’s demand for it on the street. Firm data is yet to be obtained to make any valid claims; so many experts are only able to report based on preliminary statistics and anecdotal evidence from patients and research. Regardless, overdoses are flooding emergency rooms along with COVID-19 patients, causing historical calamity in hospitals in every state. This is shown in the shift over overdose risk changing from states where opioids previously weren’t at the top of the list.
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