Fentanyl Overdose Prevention Starts With Awareness: Understanding the Opioid Crisis

heroin and fentanyl overdose
Source: pbs.org

The opioid crisis in America is only worsening year after year. Opioid addiction is so common that most people know someone who has struggled with opioid abuse. Even further, many of us know a person who has died from an opioid overdose.

The CDC reports that nearly 1 million people have died from a drug overdose since 1999 and 75% of the drug overdoses in 2020 involved an opioid.

In recent times, fentanyl has been at the forefront of the opioid epidemic. While prescription opioids and heroin used to claim the most lives, fentanyl is taking over.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, a type of substance that was responsible for 82% of the opioid overdoses in 2020.

If you’ve ever found yourself saying, “what can we do about the opioid crisis in America?” The first step we need to take is furthering education and awareness.

When people are educated and aware of a particular issue, solving it becomes easier due to solidarity and understanding.

How Did the Opioid Crisis Start? – Understanding the Three Waves of the Epidemic

How Did the Opioid Crisis Start?
Source: cpydcoalition.org

According to the CDC, the opioid epidemic has occurred in three waves: prescription opioids, heroin, and fentanyl.

Prescription Opioids

Prescription Opioids
Source: medlineplus.gov

The opioid crisis began with an over-prescribing of opioid medications. In particular, the substance referred to as oxycontin was the catalyst that began the opioid epidemic in America.

Pharmaceutical companies introduced oxycontin as a non-addictive opioid, causing doctors to begin handing it out for every instance of pain.

The National Library of Medicine reports that “when Purdue Pharma introduced OxyContin in 1996, it was aggressively marketed and highly promoted. Sales grew from $48 million in 1996 to almost $1.1 billion in 2000.”


Source: healthline.com

Once doctors realized that oxycontin was, in fact, addictive, they cut-off their patients abruptly. This caused the second wave of the opioid crisis to begin. People who were addicted to prescription oxycontin began seeking an alternative and found heroin on the street.


Source: everydayhealth.com

Around 2013, fentanyl began flooding the streets. This substance is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine, making it an extremely deadly substance. It is important to note that the fentanyl found on the street contributing to the opioid crisis is illicitly manufactured, meaning it is not the same as the fentanyl used in hospitals.

Statistics on the Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis is easier to understand when you can look at the numbers. There are several things contributing to the rising number of opioid-related deaths in America, including the pandemic that we experienced in 2020.

With that being said, here are some of the statistics relating to the opioid epidemic:

  • According to the CDC, “From 1999–2020, more than 564,000 people died from an overdose involving any opioid, including prescription and illicit opioids.”
  • In 2017 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency.
  • 70,630 people died from a drug overdose in 2019, with 48,006 of them involving a synthetic opioid like fentanyl
  • Opioid overdose deaths increased by 41% in 2020 and another 18% in 2021
  • Opioid overdoses are more common among men (7 out of 10), however, they have increased more over the years among women when compared to men (1,608% vs 1,076%)
  • According to the DEA, “Fentanyl is involved in more deaths of Americans under 50 than any cause of death, including heart disease, cancer, homicide, suicide and other accidents.”
  • Out of the 107,375 drug overdoses in 2022, 67% involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl

It is clear to see that the opioid crisis is only getting worse year after year. But what can we do to stop it? Understanding the dangers of main players like fentanyl and being aware of how to prevent overdose can help lessen these numbers.

What is Fentanyl’s Role in the Opioid Crisis?

fentanyl addicts
Source: ktar.com

To prevent fentanyl overdose rates from continuing to rise, it’s important to understand what role this substance is playing in the opioid crisis.

Fentanyl is a highly potent synthetic opioid. While this substance has medicinal use, the FDA-approved version of this drug is not what people are coming in contact with on the street.

To explain, the fentanyl that is causing staggering overdose death rates is illicitly manufactured, meaning it is created by criminal drug manufacturers without any safety procedures to follow.

In other words, the fentanyl that is found on the street is more potent and extremely unpredictable. Even worse, most people who suffer from a fentanyl overdose are unaware that they are even consuming the substance.

The DEA reports that 6 out of 10 pills that contain fentanyl have enough of the substance to kill a person.

To sum things up, most people who are overdosing on fentanyl are under the impression that they are doing other drugs. Fentanyl is being used as an adulterant or cross-contaminating a wide variety of drugs, including fake opioid pills like oxycodone, heroin, and even powder drugs like cocaine.

Because even a tiny amount of fentanyl can kill a person who does not have an opioid tolerance, abusing any kind of drug has become increasingly dangerous.

How to Prevent Fentanyl Overdoses

The best way to prevent a fentanyl overdose is to abstain from abusing any kind of drug, or at least refraining from purchasing drugs on the street.

However, many people will continue to abuse substances, especially those suffering from addiction. So how can you prevent fentanyl overdoses from occurring?

The most realistic way to prevent these overdoses from happening is by using fentanyl testing strips. These strips can be used to test your drugs to determine whether they contain fentanyl.

To use fentanyl test strips, do the following:

  • Put a small amount of your drugs in a clean and dry container
  • Add water to the container and mix it with your drugs
  • Put the wavy end of the test strip into the water for 15 seconds
  • Take the strip out of the water and allow it to sit on a flat surface for 2 to 5 minutes
  • Read the results (two pink lines indicate that your drugs are free of fentanyl or its analogs)

Responding to a Fentanyl Overdose

Whether someone is overdosing on fentanyl or another opioid, it is important to know how to respond appropriately. This information is especially vital if you abuse substances or love someone who struggles with addiction.

If someone displays the signs of an opioid overdose (shallow breathing, loss of consciousness, blue skin), take the following steps:

  • Contact emergency medical services immediately. Do not wait.
  • Administer naloxone (Narcan) if available
  • If a heartbeat is not detectable, perform rescue breathing and CPR by pushing hard on the chest bone 100 times per minute
  • Make sure the person is in the recovery position (on their side, hand supporting their head, mouth facing downward, with their leg on the floor to prevent rolling over)

Opioid overdose is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in America. With that being said, anyone struggling with opioid addiction should seek professional help.

Recovery from opioid addiction is possible with the proper tools, support, and sobriety maintenance techniques. Find help today at arisetc.com.