Fentanyl, classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule II synthetic opioid under the Controlled Substances Act, is used in the treatment of post-surgery pain or as an anesthetic. Fentanyl is a highly potent drug — 100 times more powerful than morphine and 50 times more powerful than heroin. Due to its potency, it has become a popular drug with a high abuse potential. New data released by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) highlights the significant usage of drugs containing fentanyl.
The National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS), a program of the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control, has found a dramatic increase in the presence of fentanyl in drug seizures submitted for testing by law enforcement agencies. NFLIS found that 31,700 lab samples tested positive for fentanyl in 2016, a more than twofold increase from 15,209 samples in 2015. Lab results also showed a significant increase in the presence of fentanyl analogs (drug derivatives structurally resembling and mimicking the effects of fentanyl), from 2,230 samples in 2015 to 4,782 in 2016.
These numbers provide further evidence of the unprecedented use of fentanyl in recent years. Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in August 2016 showed that nationwide, there was an increase of 426 percent in the number of drug products which tested positive for fentanyl between 2013 and 2014. Although fentanyl deaths are not reported separately in national data, multiple states recorded an increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths.
Illicit fentanyl responsible for the current opioid epidemic
As per the 2016 National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA) Summary released by the DEA, illicit fentanyl is responsible for the current opioid crisis. China and Mexico are the primary suppliers who traffic it into the United States. It is usually mixed with heroin products or pressed into counterfeit prescription medication, and users are often not aware of this contamination. Consuming fentanyl-laced drugs leads to overdoses which are at times fatal.
The increasing presence of fentanyl in counterfeit prescription medicines is worsening the fentanyl crisis. The NDTA Summary shows that in 2015, there was a significant increase in the availability of fentanyl pressed into counterfeit prescription opioids such as oxycodone. All physical features of the spurious drugs were consistent with genuine medicines, and only lab tests were able to detect the presence of fentanyl. The DEA’s investigative reporting tools have found that powdered fentanyl and a pill press machine are procured by drug traffickers, which are then used to convert fentanyl into medicinal form.
Law enforcement agencies are also in the midst of dealing with carfentanil, the most lethal fentanyl analog, which is used as a tranquilizer for elephants and other large mammals. Its potency is 10,000 times higher than morphine and 100 times higher than fentanyl. Chuck Rosenberg, DEA’s Acting Administrator, has cautioned that carfentanil is becoming increasingly visible on the streets and within communities, frequently being passed off as heroin.
Use of illicit fentanyl and related overdose deaths now considered a public health crisis
In January 2017, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution stating that the use of illicit fentanyl and related overdose deaths be considered a public health crisis. It further stated that smuggling of illicit fentanyl into the country, particularly by multinational crime syndicates, necessitates close collaboration between the U.S. government and the governments of Mexico and China. A report published by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission in February 2017 emphasizes the criticality of increased cooperation between U.S. counter-narcotic agents and their Chinese counterparts.
Recognizing the dangers posed by illicit fentanyl and heroin, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is enabling the Federal Government’s response to the crisis with a comprehensive approach, which includes inhibiting the onset of drug use, offering scientifically-proven treatment for substance abuse, and radically curtailing the accessibility of illicit drugs by engaging in international dialogue and law enforcement efforts.
Road to recovery
It is important to seek a comprehensive addiction treatment to become sober. Only a treatment that includes detox, psychotherapies, experiential therapies like yoga, meditation etc. and relapse prevention plans can aid in long-term recovery. Detoxification can help in removing all the harmful toxins accumulated in the body due to a prolonged use of the drugs. Moreover, detox done under clinically controlled conditions will also help in managing the painful withdrawal symptoms that might occur due to the drug abstinence and chart a course of recovery.
If you know someone who is in dire need of help for drug abuse, contact the Florida Detox Helpline to get the desired information. Call our 24/7 helpline number 855-920-9869 or chat online for information on state-of-the-art detox facilities in Florida.