Drug overdose deaths have increased as deaths from fentanyl escalate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fentanyl and other synthetic opioids have had a rapid and dramatic rise; overdose deaths involving these drugs have nearly doubled over the past two years, from about 35,000 deaths in the 12-month period ending October 2019 to more than 69,000 in October 2021.
Last year, the United States suffered more fentanyl-related deaths than gun- and auto-related deaths combined, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
When asked specifically about Fentanyl, Santé Center for Healing’s Medical Director Dr. Melissa Pennington, D.O., FASAM, CEDS said, “Nationwide, we have seen an increase in overdose deaths related to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. This dangerous drug is often marketed as pressed pills posing as legitimate pharmaceuticals such as Percocet or Xanax. It is also frequently found in stimulant supplies (such as cocaine) or mixed with heroin. Many users are unaware that their drug supply actually contains fentanyl. The drug’s potency leads to more difficulty with resuscitation in the case of an overdose as well as a more complicated withdrawal syndrome.”
The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics reports the following: ³
- Fentanyl is a factor in 53% of overdose deaths.
- Fentanyl overdose rates are rising 2.5x faster than heroin overdoses.
- 5% of urine specimens collected in clinics providing primary care, pain management, or substance use treatment contain fentanyl.
- 4 million prescriptions were written for fentanyl in 2018
- 2 mg of fentanyl is a lethal dose, but doses as small as 0.25 mg place the user at a high risk of overdose.
- Asphyxiation via respiratory depression – that is, the slowing of the respiratory system – is the leading cause of death in fentanyl ODs.
- Hypoxia – that is, a lack of oxygen in the brain – is another common cause of death.
In addition to overdose and death, abusing opioids presents additional risk factors, including escalation to injection drug use which puts addicts at greater risk for contracting HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.
What does treatment for fentanyl use look like?
Treatment of opioid use disorder is unique to each individual and based on a number of factors. An assessment by a treatment center like Santé Center for Healing is a great place to start. During an assessment an individual will confer with clinical staff to assess what level of care (Medical Detox, Residential, Intensive Outpatient, Transitional Living, etc.) is most appropriate. Levels of care help determine what the individualized treatment plan will look like.
“At Santé, we have the ability to detox individuals from fentanyl comfortably and safely, using medications such as buprenorphine, clonidine, as well as other medications to treat symptoms of anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, pain/muscle tension and GI upset. We understand how important it is to keep patients comfortable as they transition into residential treatment. Detoxification is the first step on the road to recovery,” said Dr. Pennington.
For more information on Santé and how to help those with a fentanyl addiction, click here.