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Usage of deadly drug fentanyl “shooting up” across the country

Author: Richard Ruby/Wednesday, April 6, 2016/Categories: News

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Usage of deadly drug fentanyl “shooting up” across the country

Alex VandenHouten, Staff Reporter

Fifty times more powerful than heroine and 100 times more powerful than morphine, fentanyl is a new and deadly drug that is sweeping the nation. Yet it has rarely been talked about around the country and not many people are aware of the dangers of it, especially college students. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic painkiller that looks like heroin, in fact it is so closely related to heroin that it is often mistaken for heroin. In the past, you could find fentanyl being laced into heroin. But now it is being sold separately without the buyer realizing it this often leads to a recipe for a hasty death as only a tiny bit of the drug can kill you. Fentanyl hits the user so fast that they feel it as soon as they stick the needle in their arm. It has become popular due to the intense high the user receives. The result is that numbers are shooting up in parts of the country. For example, in some areas of New England, fentanyl is now killing more people than heroin.

According to the New York Times article, Heroine Epidemic is Yielding to Deadlier Cousin: Fentanyl, in New Hampshire, fentanyl alone killed 158 people in 2015; heroine killed 32 people. Fentanyl is representing the newest wave of addiction as addicts continue to look for higher highs for cheaper costs in prescription painkillers; Fentanyl is now the prescription drug of choice. That is right; it is a prescription drug. It comes in brand names such as Duragesic, Abstral, Subsys, Ionsys and Sublimaze. It has been used since the 1960’s to treat extreme pain. Now, the drug can come in patches or lozenge form. In fact, according to The New York Times, in 2015, doctors wrote 6.64 million prescriptions in the U.S. However, the form that is commonly associated with overdoses is the powder form. That powder form, which is made in underground laboratories in the states as well as Mexico, can be injected or taken through a patch.

In recent decades, illicit fentanyl has been smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico.

“For the cartels, it’s their drug of choice,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. “They have figured out a way to make fentanyl more cheaply and easily than heroin and are manufacturing it at a record pace.”

The reason fentanyl hasn’t been talked about is because no one knew it was fentanyl. Everybody thought it was heroin and that is also the reason for the recent spikes in fentanyl overdoses. Nationally, the total number of fentanyl drug seizures reported by forensic laboratories jumped to 4,585 in 2014 from 618 in 2012. One of the reasons for the spike in reported fentanyl drug seizures has been that most cases were reported as being heroin related but recent lab results showed that fentanyl was instead responsible. Many labs continue to assume that heroin causes these drug overdoses, when in reality, it is actually fentanyl. But further study has made it clear that there is now a fentanyl epidemic.

Last March, the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a nationwide alert about fentanyl, saying that overdoses were “occurring at an alarming rate throughout the United States and represent a significant threat to public health and safety.”

Most of the overdoses have occurred in the Northeast, but recently, the drug has found its way into the Midwest and even Wisconsin, specifically southeastern Wisconsin in Milwaukee County. According to John Diedrich of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, fentanyl linked deaths are surging as the county reported 16 fentanyl deaths in 2014 and that total went up to 28 in 2015. Through March of this year, there has already been 19 fentanyl related deaths in Milwaukee County. Heroine has long been the largest category of overdose deaths in Milwaukee. Drug deaths hit a record high in 2014 and for the first time ever, heroin deaths were greater than car crashes or homicides.

With Milwaukee’s history of heroin abuse, it makes this new deadlier drug that much more dangerous, and the odds are the number of fentanyl deaths will continue to be on the rise and continue to spread across Wisconsin. It is only a matter of time until we start hearing fentanyl here in La Crosse.

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