With fentanyl addiction rising in California, the state is facing a new drug crisis. In 2017, deaths from synthetic opioids, particularly fentanyl, more than doubled from 229 to 536. So what exactly is fentanyl, and why is it causing a crisis in California and across the United States?
What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. When used as instructed, it can be a treatment for chronic pain, especially for surgery recovery and cancer. But it is typically made and sold illegally, making it highly susceptible to misuse.
Fentanyl is also an incredibly potent drug. It is actually 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Fentanyl is often combined with other illegal drugs as well, such as cocaine and heroin, and it’s usually without the user’s knowledge. When mixed with other drugs, fentanyl is even more deadly.
How Does Fentanyl Affect the Body?
Like other opioids, fentanyl relieves pain and creates feelings of euphoria and relaxation. But there are also harmful side effects, including dizziness, confusion, vomiting and respiratory depression. And because it is so strong, users are at a high risk of overdose, especially when fentanyl is mixed with another drug.
Why Are Fentanyl Deaths in California Increasing?
Fentanyl-related deaths in California have been steadily increasing over the past several years. Although the number of deaths in California is still somewhat low when compared to other states, the sustained uptick in cases seems to indicate that California is at risk of reaching the higher numbers that have been seen mainly on the East Coast up to this point.
So why is this trend occurring?
- Potency: The strength of fentanyl means there is a higher risk of overdose. Moreover, fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs, making for an especially toxic combination. And many opioid-related deaths are caused by the presence of more than one drug.
- Readily available: Fentanyl can be cooked in a basement laboratory while heroin, for example, requires more maintenance. This has made fentanyl more readily available than other synthetic opioids.
- Lower cost: Because it is easier to produce, it also costs less than heroin.
This combination of fentanyl’s strength and accessibility has resulted in greater widespread use, addiction and deaths.
How Can You Get Help?
Many communities across California are taking steps to combat the epidemic through treatment and prevention methods. Some of these methods include:
- Greater availability of Naxolone, a medication that can reverse the effects of a fentanyl overdose as well as overdose from other opioids.
- There are now fentanyl tests strips, which can be used to detect if fentanyl is present in another drug.
- Education programs about fentanyl and overdose.
- Access to addiction treatment.
At BAART Programs, we provide medication-assisted treatment, counseling and other supportive services to help people overcome opiate addiction. We have several locations throughout California.
Contact our staff today with questions or to set up an intake appointment.